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101 927 



SEMI- CENTENNIAL 



"It is pleasant to be even a small author. 9 

XCHEKHOFF 




SEMI- 
CENTENNIAL 

Some of the Life 
and Part of the Opinions 

of 

LEONARD BACON 



Harper & Brothers Publishers 

New Tork and London 

1939 



Books 
By the Same Author 



BULLINGER BOUND 

THE GOOSE ON THE CAPITOL 

THE VOYAGE OF AUTOLEON 

THE FURIOSO 

LOST BUFFALO 

DREAM AND ACTION 

THE LEGEND OF (JUINCIBALD 

ANIMULA VAGULA 

GUINEA-FOWL 

PH.D.'S 



Semi-Centennial Copyright, 1938, 1939, fy Leonard Bacon. Printed in the United States 

of America. All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced 

in any manner whatsoever without written permission. For information address 

Harper & Brothers. 

3-9 FIRST EDITION B-0 



To 

Martha, Helen, Alice, and their Mother, who do not 

Appear Frequently in these Pages for a Reason 

Sufficiently Expressed by the Poet Donne. 



CONTENTS 



i. Solvay i 

ii. Pictures and Schools 13 

in. Yale i 28 

iv. Yale 2 41 

v. The Magic Mountain 51 

VI. Annus Mirabilis 69 

vn. University of California 96 

vm. First Solo 114 

ix. Interval But Not of Repose 122 

x. War? 134 

xi. T7z Soldiefs Return 157 

xn. Interim and Crisis 169 

xin. Zurich 176 

xiv. Change 188 

xv. T/ze JRo0d to Florence 108 

L/ 

xvi. Florence 211 

xvii. Sowf/a County 230 

xvm. Fishing 237 

xix. Defence of Poetry 249 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 



The times are whiffling back and forth 
And we change with them, lief or loth. 
Yet the wild geese are honking north 
And the trilliums flare in the undergrowth. 

And what the poets have said or sung, 
However mad, is still half-true. 
And though I grow old who once was young, 
I stand by that as I used to do. 

The beard's gone grey in the fiftieth year, 
The muscle's flaccid that was so staunch. 
If you consider, it would appear 
There's a development of paunch. 

Yet what is so good as my beech-wood, 
The silver shaft, and the thin green leaf? 
Her beauty that is not understood 
Still cleanses mirth and cleanses grief 

That come by changes. She can heal. 
She quickens still with the same power 
That blunts the spike of the solomon-seal 
And sweetens the arbutus-flower. 



INTRODUCTION 



THIS book is the partial and imperfect record of a life in 
which there has been a great deal of happiness. Many details 
which might have a certain pungency have been left out, 
some because they were forgotten, some because they had 
better be. It is a truism that everyone has plenty to be 
ashamed of, but quite apart from that I am tired of the 
convention of exploiting one's obliquities, however profita- 
ble, and even more tired of the more satisfactory convention 
of exploiting the obliquities of others. Deliberately I have 
refrained from the violation of reserves. 

I have tried to set down what I saw or knew and to express 
my feelings about the seen or the known as exactly and 
vividly as lay in my power. The matters I have chosen to 
relate have been selected from a memory, which, like all 
memories, is as crowded as the rush-hour in a subway, and 
they were chosen because I hoped they might divert or 
attract persons who had never heard of me and might per- 
haps prefer things that way. I speak mainly as a witness and 
I hope not as the scribes. I have endeavored to be accurate. 
But memory may be at fault and belief or prejudice still 
more so. It will be sufficient if I have avoided essential 
errors. 

My life has been governed by proclivity and desire, rather 
than by what is called thought. But in that respect I resem- 
ble the vast majority of what are called thinkers.* They are 
at liberty, if they choose, to reproach me with a failure to 

*"The greater part of conscious thinking must be counted among the 
instinctive functions." Neitzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. 



INTRODUCTION 

adopt any one of their prevailing philosophies. As if it 
mattered a great deal, I don't like Fascism and I don't like 
Marxism either. I think our liberalism is de-alcoholized eau- 
de-cologne. I think our toryism is weak vinegar extracted 
from the sourest of grapes. Particularly I am down on what 
may be called "our crowd" in literature and in politics. The 
cliquishness of the times is hateful to me. I like people who 
know that what is worth doing is generally done alone, I 
have known many of that order. I detest people who conceal 
individual selfishness by paying it into the pool of a party or 
a group. I have succeeded in avoiding a great many of them. 
Clearly it is a reasonable attitude, for even the Dionne chil- 
dren were born as individuals and will die as such. Though 
co-operation is desirable and necessary between birth and 
death, obviously people who believe in the mystical virtue 
of the group are parasites on each other. If I am going to 
be a parasite, I want a juicy victim who will not devour my 
heart while I am feasting on his liver. I believe that what 
counts in the long run is what the single creature thinks and 
feels as a single creature. Collectivism as a principle of poli- 
tics may be a good thing for aught I know. As a principle 
of life, it is abhorrent bunkum. What really matters is the 
individual's yes or no to such ideas as are supposed to be "in 
the air/' I don't think I have lost sight of this view, whiLe 
writing this book. 

But such a view in no sense contradicts the fact that what 
interest this work may possess is largely derived from my 
contact, short or prolonged, with a number of the most 
vivid personalities of a rich time. I hope they may justify 
the insolent attempt. I have had the luck to visit, as a tourist 
if you will, many exciting frontiers. I have known great 
scientists, great humanists, great statesmen, great poets. I 
have also known men, uncelebrated except in these pages, 
every whit as fascinating. From the lot I have chosen, very 
likely often unwisely, but never without excitement. And I 

xii 



INTRODUCTION 

regret that I have left out so many, including the noblest of 
our archaeologists and astronomers and a world-famous 
British physicist whose golf is worse than mine. But if I pass 
on a tenth part of the excitement they and others brought 
into my life, this casual and capricious record of fifty years 
ought not to be half bad. 

It is pleasant and proper to acknowledge the courtesy of 
Farrar and Rinehart who have permitted me to reprint cer- 
tain verses from Rhyme and Punishment, a little volume of 
mine published by them. 

Certain other debts ought to be acknowledged, in particu- 
lar to Professor William Tenney Brewster, Mrs. Rush 
Sturges, Mrs. S. Foster Hunt, Professor Chauncey Brewster 
Tinker, Mrs. I. Peace Hazard, Mrs. Deborah Calkins, and 
Mr. Carl Wister, who have read the manuscript and favored 
me with their suggestions. To them and to my wife, and to 
my daughter Helen, who went through the same ordeal, I 
am deeply grateful for comment and encouragement. 



xni 



SOLVAT 



ONE morning I woke and found myself fifty. Other men 
have had the same experience. And I dare say it generally 
makes an impression on them. At any rate it did on me. But 
such thoughts as occurred to me at the moment would not 
justify writing a book, unless more adequate motives pre- 
sented themselves. Rightly or wrongly I believe they did, 
and to them is owing this record of emphatic failure and 
minor success that have never lost gust or interest for me. 
Practically the first thing I remember is a large black cone 
which formed a part of my limited horizon and whose out- 
line, etched in my memory, lent an aspect of the familiar to 
a strange white mountain, whose semblance I first saw many 
years later in a Japanese print. That dark cone dominated 
my small world and no Himalaya ever looked higher. Up its 
side climbed a vast affair of brownish-red metal which, by 
some strange device, from time to time added many cubits 
to the stature of the blue-black mountain. For the moun- 
tain, unlike the stable rolling hills that hemmed us in, 
waxed and waned in an arbitrary manner. It was in fact the 
gigantic coal-pile of the big chemical works, within whose 
barbed-wire barriers I had very recently been born. For 
some wholly inexplicable reason the coal-pile was to me a 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

more exciting object than volcanic chimneys, than coke- 
ovens extruding red-hot, eight-foot-high prisms of coal to 
be slaked, than the cable-railway cars sliding on cobwebs of 
woven wire a hundred feet above my head. The long, rest- 
ful, gravitational curve fascinated me then and, in a queer 
way, in retrospect now. 

The works were an odd place in which to be born, but by 
no means an unexciting place for consciousness to dawn. 
Freight cars moved out and in from the great main-line 
tracks a hundred yards from our door, whence I could hear 
the blare of the limiteds slowing for Syracuse. The phrase 
"Lake Shore" still has poetry for me, whatever it may have 
lost for people to whom it never was a symbol of ferocious 
and enormous power. All around us steam issued in white 
clouds from unexpected places. Mysterious machines 
hummed or clanked, and when the blue carbon arcs were 
switched on at dusk, the roar and pulse never slackened or 
altered. The white light with the savage blue center is gone 
from the world, and though its effect was harsh to the point 
of cruelty, I regret in a manner its cold radiance and lunar- 
black shadows. 

One thing was clear about the works from the first. On 
Sundays windows were closed in the local shops, but the 
works never ceased from their impressive continuity. They 
were evidently too important for such weakness, and if they 
had entertained the notion, would have whistled their con- 
tempt for it from a hundred sirens. I think that even then 
I recognized that the giants who went up and down between 
the offices and the ammonia tanks had what may be called 
an engineering interest in their vocation, that they were at 
work on the new and the unpredictable, that they were 
starting something. I have since learned that at the time and 
the place the investigator cut as much of a figure as the 
investor. The early nineties were eager and inquiring as 
well as acquisitive. And I have reason to believe that com- 



SOLVAY 

plexities of "the benzine ring" excited imagination quite as 
much as the equal mystery of the balance-sheets. 

So much for the setting. The characters who moved in it 
were mainly large and wholly sympathetic creatures who 
took a very great interest in one. It makes me laugh to think 
how young my parents were and glad to think how happy 
they were a stone's throw from a four-way track with chem- 
ical dragons fuming and hissing in the front yard. Besides 
them there were in the house the delightful Maggie, for 
twenty years "the provider of official meals and unofficial 
debauches," and Annie a romantic figure with one blue and 
one brown eye, whose mild rule was accompanied by song 
ranging from the Weltschmerz of the "Kerry Dances" to the 
aching drama of 

Father, dear father, come home with me now. 

The clock in the steeple strikes three. 
There's poor little Bennie so sick on her arm. 

And no one to help her but me. 

The latter ballad was suppressed after my mother heard me 
demanding an encore with streaming tears. 

And then of course there was in the house an even smaller 
person than I, whose existence I regarded with an indiffer- 
ence verging on hostility my sister two and a half years 
younger than I, whose arrival on a planet where she in- 
stantly encountered my by no means scrupulous competi- 
tion, I persist in believing that I remember. 

A biscuit-toss away from us dwelt my uncle Frederick 
Hazard with his young wife and two daughters, one exactly 
my age, the other exactly my sister's. I think I considered 
their household definitely more interesting than ours, be- 
cause their cook and her husband, the houseboy, had been 
slaves, and were still black. I felt no race prejudice at the 
time. On the contrary "Mammy" was a very good woman 
indeed, but if hers had been the Devil's kitchen, it could not 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 



have produced a more egregious rascal than Tolliver her 
husband. Dishonest, shiftless, incapable, for many years he 
was the delight of the neighborhood. And his remark when 
justly rebuked for the outrageous abuse of a horse: "When 
I wukked in de Souf , I wukked for de ve'y fust quality, but 
when I wukked in de No'f, I wukked for such quality as dey 
have in de No'f," took the wind out of the sails of the 
indignant and became a family byword for purposes of 
denigration. 

I have generally considered myself a fortunate man and in 
nothing more so than in what has been called "the selection 
of parents." If it were possible to choose and I had been 
wise in the choice, I could not have done better. I can say 
with perfect sincerity that I have never known a man of 
greater interest and variety than my father, and, as the 
sequel will show, I have a right to form a judgment, for I 
have known a tremendous number of the most interesting 
men of my time. My mother was beautiful in her person and 
still more so in her nature and mind. I mean to say some- 
thing of both of them. 

My father was the eldest son of a marriage between two 
branches of the Bacon family, known in old New Haven 
respectively as the "Gown Bacons" and the "Town Bacons." 
The "Town" Bacons were diligent in business and had at 
one time been enormously wealthy. Old Jabez, my father's 
great-grandfather on the "Town" Bacon side, at one time 
appropriately cornered the New York pork-market by buy- 
ing a cargo thirty miles at sea, became the richest man in 
Connecticut, and was reputed to have more in his private 
fortune than there was in the treasury at Washington. That 
fortune was dissipated famously by his heirs, and no Bacon, 
"Town" or "Gown," seems apt to build a Radio City any- 
where. The "Gown" Bacons were one and all professional 
men, the vast majority clergymen. And, if I say it, they were 
a family of great and highly individual distinction. Leonard 



SOLVAY 

Bacon, one of the last great preachers, who on Lincoln's 
own word modified the President's views on the slavery ques- 
tion, was a wit and a poet, even if he was called the Pope of 
Connecticut. His reply to an objector who called out to 
him: "I don't know about that, Dr. Bacon," is justly re- 
membered: "Then Sir, my knowledge, however small, must 
outweigh your ignorance, however large." Johnson could 
not have said more in so few words. His really magnificent 
hymn, "O God, beneath thy guiding hand/' is sung at every 
Yale commencement to this day. And he had the difficult 
distinction of presiding (with dignity and credit) at the 
ecclesiastical trial of Henry Ward Beecher. 

But whatever his fame in his own time, it is a farthing 
light now beside that of his strange sister. A fine enlarge- 
ment of a good daguerreotype hangs on my stair at Peace 
Dale, and I never glance at that quiet enthusiastic face with- 
out a twinge. For it was Delia Bacon who let loose the 
hypothesis, as mad as she herself subsequently became, that 
Francis Bacon wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. The 
friend of Emerson, of Hawthorne, of Carlyle (it was to her 
that Hawthorne wrote: "Emerson is something more and 
something less than a man"), she wore out their patience 
by her neurotic defense of an indefensible thesis, resting her 
belief on the utterly false premise that only men of pro- 
found learning can possess great literary powers. Anyone 
who cares may discover in Hawthorne's "Recollections of a 
Gifted Woman" a story as tragic as any illuminated by the 
great master, whom she hoped to dethrone in favor of a 
fictitious pretender. That such powers were to wind up in 
such a mare's nest is enough to make the gods laugh or 
weep. 

All Leonard Bacon's sons and daughters were brilliant, 
from Theodore Bacon, in whose house Lord Bryce finished 
The American Commonwealth, and whose biography of his 
unhappy Aunt Delia is a masterpiece, to the youngest daugh- 

5 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ter Alice, whose book Japanese Girls and Women is a classic 
in that department. His second child, my father's father, was 
a violently controversial clergyman, a writer of power, and 
a brilliant and agile talker. When he was seventy I saw him 
charm and fascinate a group of undergraduates, which not 
every old man can do. And his essay on Calvin entitled "On 
the Use of Fagots at Geneva" will make any instructed 
person with a taste for irony laugh as heartily today as when 
it appeared. But the dragons he smote are extinct now. His 
wit is lost in a hundred pamphlets on controversies as dead 
as ours are going to be. But it was from him, no doubt, that 
my father inherited his almost savage curiosity about every- 
thing whatever, and a pronounced tendency to call a spade 
by its given name. 

Tact was not perhaps my father's strongest point, and he 
had little taste for those pleasures which are obtained by the 
exercise of what are called social gifts. Not infrequently his 
immense knowledge had the effect of boring men who knew 
nothing and wished to know it. And he for his part could 
not be bothered by such persons and was at small pains to 
conceal it. He knew many of his own kind to whom he was 
devoted, and they to him. A pupil of Willard Gibbs, he was 
an excellent physico-chemist, with an absolute predilection 
for the advanced and the radical. Gilbert Lewis, one of the 
most eminent scientists of the times, and one whom no other 
has called a conservative yet, told me between mirth and 
astonishment that in my father's sight he, Gilbert, was a 
hide-bound reactionary lacking in the spirit of intellectual 
adventure. But my father's interests were not merely scien- 
tific. His essays on the Russian national debt in the Yale 
Review begot a whole army of articles in European eco- 
nomic periodicals. He had great knowledge of languages, 
and fascinating theories about their origins. His discovery 
that the dimensions of a Saxon Church at Dover, surpris- 
ingly fractional in English feet, came out even in Roman, 

6 



SOLVAY 

seems to me not without interest. He translated Cournot's 
classic application of mathematics to the so-called science of 
political economy with his brother-in-law, Irving Fisher. 
He was an authority on Swiss history. He knew whole books 
of the Iliad by heart, and he corresponded frequently and 
delightfully with such Hellenists as John Hall Scott and 
Walter Leaf. What region of earth, not full of his labors? 

I don't think that it is mere nostalgia of time passed that 
makes me believe his conversation so excellent. He was a 
whole Athenaeum in himself. Politics, history, music, Eliza- 
bethan drama (he had read it all), Pre-Raphaelite poetry, 
mathematics (with sidelights on Cardan or Tartaglia), the- 
ories of the atom, yarns about old New Haven or his ex- 
peditions in Montana before the railway, the California 
desert, Russia, Central and South America, you never knew 
what was coming on the carpet. And it was never dull. He 
was a mass of odd opinion and strange prejudice, but to his 
son at least an unpredictable and entertaining encyclopedia. 
And he always behaved as if a child were a rational creature 
who could be as much interested in thoughts and things as 
an older person. To that tendency I owe my first recollec- 
tion of literary history. I have a vignette of him in my mind 
still, as he stood in the yellow lamplight and told us that the 
news of Tennyson's death was in the evening paper. It 
meant something to me for I knew all about Flores in the 
Azores and Spanish ships at sea. Men so-called have sneered 
at that name since. No doubt there is much bathos and 
much sentimentality in Tennyson. Nevertheless the contem- 
porary critics are in error. 

His tastes and beliefs were as varied as they were unpre- 
dictable. It is hard to understand how he could dislike Keats 
and at the same time admire William Morris. When Count 
Witte, whom he visited to discuss the Russian debt, told 
him that the Moujik was profoundly religious and also pro- 
foundly immoral, he thought the statement involved a con- 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

tradiction and that in some way it was a joke on Count 
Witte. I suppose my father was a puritan for whom it was 
impossible to separate conduct and belief. But that did not 
prevent him from telling me stories out of Rabelais. I think, 
in spite of his enormous and omnivorous reading, that he 
cared relatively little for literary grace and form. He was apt 
to admire a book more because it put an end to a con- 
troversy or suggested the solution of a problem than because 
its words were beautiful or the figures in it threw light 
on human anfractuosity. I know he disliked Pride and 
Prejudice, because, as my mother put it, Mrs. Bennet was 
a fool whom he could not suffer gladly. Thackeray was his 
man as against Dickens. Perhaps he remembered his grand- 
father's epigram in the connection: "I never did like Thack- 
eray, till I read one of his books." Also he held a brief for 
Macaulay, a writer whose limitations are easy to point out, 
but whose virtues do not seem recently to have been imi- 
tated. Our dinner table was amusing when my father was in 
the vein, and all the more so because one could never tell, 
however well one knew his prejudices, on which side of a 
question he was likely to break out. I wish I might make 
him appear as fascinating as I found him, when, with the 
light of battle in his eyes, he clinched an argument with a 
quotation from Gibbon or adorned his tale with an anecdote 
about Arrhenius and Vant'hoofd. 

If the Bacons were a university family, up to their necks 
in the learned professions, my mother's family, the Hazards, 
were an altogether different, but not less entertaining clan. 
For nearly two hundred and fifty years they have been firmly 
and fortunately attached to the same land and the signature 
of the quaint Samuel Sewall stands on the first deed, dated 
1698. They were and are physically a big race, who, begin- 
ning as the owners of huge autarchic farms, switched thirty 
years after the Revolution to textile mills, and twenty years 
after the Civil War to the chemical works which are the 



SOLVAY 

background of my first recollection. If the Bacons are ebul- 
lient and outspoken, the Hazards are reserved and carry 
tact to the point of viciousness. But they have had their nota- 
ble men and women. "College Tom" Hazard (there were 
thirty Toms at one time and hence the necessity for nick- 
names), toward the end of the eighteenth century, was one 
of the first men to see the economic fallacy implicit in slave 
labor and was foremost in the passage of the legislation that 
abolished it in Rhode Island. His grandson, my great- 
grandfather, Rowland Gibson Hazard the first, must have 
been an absolutely astounding creature. He lived by two 
utterly dissimilar patterns. According to the custom of 
the time he lost three fortunes and made four. Of one of the 
three lost he was, as I believe, cheated by the ineffable Jay 
Gould after the manner of Jay Gould, but nothing could 
rob him of his philosophy. As he traveled the country over 
on his multifarious enterprises, he wrote huge and elaborate 
treatises on Freedom of the Will. They were no mere avoca- 
tional vagaries of a financier, for they led to correspondence 
with John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer, the latter of 
whom visited him at Peace Dale. There Spencer made to 
my mother a classic remark. Her grandfather was hot in 
argument with the Englishman, who after giving a soft an- 
swer, turned to the girl of eighteen, as she carved for the old 
gentlemen, with these words: "But we tend to disquisition. 
Let us prattle a little." Prattling with Herbert Spencer is 
what imagination boggles at. 

Rowland Gibson Hazard had two remarkable brothers, 
"Shepherd" Tom, the author of "The Johnny-Cake Papers/' 
an honest-to-God local classic, and Joseph, whom I just re- 
member because of oddity, which even a child could see 
was incomparable. In him were concentrated, on Mendelian 
principles, all the queernesses that had at any time come into 
the family. When you met him crossing the lawns he was fol- 
lowed by dozens of grey squirrels, as an army by vultures. 

9 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

His tailor made his trousers button at the side like a small 
boy's, because he had once had the misfortune to appear 
insufficiently held together on an occasion when such an over- 
sight was more than ordinarily inappropriate. South Kings- 
town is peppered with memorials of his eccentricity from the 
hundred-foot stone tower at Narragansett which he built, 
because he was so commanded in a dream, to the monument 
over a murdered man whom he did not know, which he 
constructed for no assignable motive whatever. He was an 
infatuated spiritualist, but that stood him in good stead, for 
it made him the warm friend of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 
who speaks of him with almost hysterical enthusiasm in her 
letters. Robert Browning he regarded as a hard, selfish man, 
and his evidence in favor of this astounding position was as 
bizarre as everything else about him. One outstanding virtue 
he had. He loved trees as much as the Old Man of Verona, 
and his place at the Pier became a regular arboretum, which 
at one time used annually to be visited by scientists from 
Harvard. But no ornithologist will ever love him, for he 
appears to have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. 
He introduced the English sparrow, and upset the balance 
of nature. 

The Hazards existed in astronomical numbers all over 
Southern Rhode Island, but there was a sort of crowding of 
their galaxies together at Peace Dale. There were four big 
houses full of them, all sizes and ages. A small boy might 
often find himself hungry at tea-time and balance in his 
mind the cookies of "Oakwoods" against the little cakes of 
"Holly House." Oakwoods was my mother's home until we 
came to live in her own house, the "Acorns." 

It is hard for a son to describe his mother. Mine was a tall 
woman and an authority less suspect than a son's has de- 
scribed her as beautiful. Charlotte Perkins Stetson in her 
tragic autobiography speaks of my mother as one of the 
three loveliest creatures she had ever known. I see no reason 

10 



SOLVAY 

to doubt it. Further she had the delightful quality of seem- 
ing wholly unaware of it. 

She was dark with delicate but strongly marked features 
and her hands might have been painted by Diirer or carved 
by Donatello, Her radiant smile had its origin in real 
humor. And I wish she might have had more matter for 
mirth. For the warmth of nature that was the essence of her 
charm made her attract magnetically the burdens of others. 

Her mind was finely cultivated. She knew Jane Austen 
and innumerable poets by heart. And the books she bought 
with money saved from the household budget would make 
the core of a first-rate library. She transmitted to me her 
passion for the Italian painters before Raphael. And I still 
possess a lovely Madonna by Jacopo di Selayo, which she 
bought for herself with a gift of money from her grandfather 
when she was sixteen. And she had the glorious quality of 
physical courage, a noble attribute, though not so rare as 
men are apt to think. It was she who went to the heads of a 
maddened pair of horses thrashing and kicking in the 
snow, while a strong man I should not like to be stood by 
and let her do it. 

Also she had known and liked and been liked by inter- 
esting people, Charlotte Perkins Stetson for instance. John 
Fiske, the historian, had bellowed German lieder in a tre- 
mendous bass in the music-room at Oakwoods. And it is a 
family tradition that twenty years before a power-kite leaped 
from the sand-dunes at Kitty Hawk, Professor Langley had 
told a girl of eighteen, under the pines at Aiken, that men 
were going to fly. One rather more casual encounter of hers 
throws some little light on a time and a man. As she entered 
the ball-room at a fancy-dress affair in New Haven, a per- 
sonage who appeared fat, affected, but not dull, was pre- 
sented to her. His name was Oscar Wilde and my mother 
saw with amusement that there were already three Bun- 
thornes on the floor with promise of more to come. Mr. 

11 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Wilde must have noticed the same phenomenon, for with 
an unmoved countenance he remarked: " Tatience* seems 
to have been here." Except as an exhibition of sang-froid, 
this remark has little to recommend it. But we lack sang- 
froid nowadays. The eighties still had it. 

Hers was a delightful humorous mind, little concerned 
with what seems the main object of women of her oppor- 
tunities in these times. She wanted her children to know 
about real things and real people, not about factitious grace 
or artificial distinction. Beyond what in the nature of things 
a son owes his mother, I owe her my permanent, early, and 
intense interest in literature, and specifically in poetry. 
Long before I could read I had, because of her tutelage, 
dozens of poems at my tongue's end. My father's fine verbal 
memory was passed on to me, but she set it to work before 
I was out of the kilts worn by three-year-olds in the early 
nineties. Two or three readings ordinarily made me the 
master of a song of Shakespeare's or Scott's. Nor have I any- 
thing but pity for the children of the times, who must be 
content with abridgments of Mickey Mouse and Buck 
Rogers, never suspecting wild hunts and faery lands forlorn. 
That I knew as familiar and desirable friends most of the 
poems in Miss Repplier's delightful Book of Famous Vejse 
before I was six, still seems to me a piece of good fortune 
not exchangeable with anything, and I am happy at this 
moment, because my interest and direction were indicated 
with consummate clearness almost as soon as I was aware 
that there was a mystery in the world, which one called I. 
For all the anxiety and bitterness of hope deferred which 
the practice of the unconquered art has brought me, I count 
the imperceptible but continuous training that my mother 
gave me as a capital piece of good luck. What more could 
one ask than to be introduced as a child by a beautiful 
woman to divine beauty? 



II tffc 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 



THE narrative of a child's recollections from five to eleven, 
or for that matter from eleven to eighteen, ought to be im- 
mensely detailed or very brief indeed. I prefer the second 
alternative. What I retain is a series of vivid "camera shots" 
that remain in the mind like actual photographs on the 
wall of a room. The pied woods at Peace Dale and the blue 
and rose-stone heights of Santa Barbara are apt to be the 
background of the earlier vignettes, indefinite perhaps, but 
as necessary to the picture as the beautiful dim perspectives 
of Perugino and Botticelli. The dangerous-looking black 
water where I began my first clumsy operations against the 
embattled perch and secret pickerel. The boy at the public 
school, who first drawing a line on the ground invited me to 
toe it, and, when with obliging politeness I complied with 
the request, delivered a crashing punch to my jaw. That was 
my first and unhappily not my last encounter with human 
pleasure in cruelty for its own sake. There was that dog on 
top of its kennel barking furiously as the train ploughed 
axle-deep through the flooded streets of what must have 
been St. Louis, A prairie-dog metropolis seen from the same 
train under the brilliant sun of the great plains. The road- 
runner which I encountered head-on in the knee-high 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

myrtle under the orange trees at Mission Hill, nor is it 
known which was more horrified, boy or bird. The silver 
bridle and pommel of Dixie Thompson, last of the ran- 
cheros, as he pulled up on State Street in Santa Barbara to 
bow to my grandmother. The moment when in Madame 
Montessori's phrase I "exploded into reading." That is un- 
usually sharply defined. The day before a book was as closely 
sealed to me as if I had been blind. And in the twinkling of 
an eye, a page in Andrew Lang's Blue True Story Book, on 
which I was idly examining a picture, was illuminated as if 
by a lightning flash. The yells of men in front of the Santa 
Barbara Press building when war was declared against Spain. 
The strange impression made on me by the only good 
American ballad: 

"Out booms! out booms!" our skipper called* 
"Out booms! and give her sheet!" 

and the halting and crude imitation of it that almost imme- 
diately and half-automatically came out of the end of my 
own pencil. "The King's Ankus" in St Nicholas, and the 
unimagined horror and interest that made me look around 
like one that knew the fearful fiend was treading close be- 
hind him. A redstart at his ease in the young South County 
beechwood. The insane speed of a special train that "stopped 
only for hot-boxes" between California and Omaha. Wild 
flowers at Saugus in the desert, Indian paint-brush and 
bachelor's button. "Fantastical rock-towers** over Green 
River, most unbelievable railway division-point on earth. 
My uncles playing tennis in the soft Rhode Island summer 
evening, while the shadows of maple and sycamore grew 
longer and blacker across the sweet hay. Panchita Dibblee's 
beautiful face and ivory hands as she sat cutting confetti at 
the carnival. These are but a few of the details in the jum- 
ble. But I observe a sort of unity. The things that pleased, 
excited, or alarmed me then, would, mutatis mutandis, have 

> id. 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

the same effect now, and actually do, nor am I ashamed in 
any respect of what attracted my childish attention. This is 
just as well, for I am fully aware of the connection for good 
or evil between these things and what I was to become. 

Up to my eleventh year I don't suppose there was a hap- 
pier child on the planet than I. But I must have become a 
problem in some way, for the higher powers decided at that 
point that I ought to go to boarding-school, and St. George's 
at Newport, then a tiny struggling affair with not more than 
twenty-four boarders, was my destined fate. I think now 
that I was too young to go, but at all events I went. The 
earlier part of my experience there was not unlike Baal Baa! 
Black Sheep's. Like him, from the throne of domestic tyr- 
anny, where, I fear, I had exhibited some of the qualities of 
Nero (this I fancy was the problem), I found myself reduced 
to the lowest rank of the insulted and the injured. And 
whatever sympathy I may have for the maladjusted and 
unhappy, I derive from the first five years of my seven at 
what in time became one of the best schools in America. 

Even now I don't like to consider certain aspects of that 
minor martyrdom. Rightly or wrongly there was no taste, 
interest, or opinion which I shared with my schoolmates. 
And as a result, for years there was hardly one of them 
whom I could feel was my friend. Too tall for my strength, 
I was a figure of fun, a set-up, a push-over, in the sight of a 
generation of athletes. Too one-sided in my tastes, the near- 
est thing to an intellectual found me almost as grotesque in 
more abstract matters. And certainly during my first two 
years it would be hard for me to say by whom I was more 
persecuted, whether by my compeers or by the harassed 
young Harvard men who were endeavoring to get me over 
the hurdles of Latin grammar and through the briars of 
elementary algebra. Like Black Sheep I grew clumsy and 
stupid in my own sight, and, though I am by nature so 
social as to be a byword, was driven almost by force into 

15 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the strict retirement of an interior life. This grew upon 
me to such an extent that I actually dreaded encounter- 
ing a couple of comrades on my solitary walks. And it was 
five years before I could get off at Wickford Junction, when 
vacation was over, without fear of the peine forte et dure. 
On the railway platform there I was sure to meet five or six 
young demons, brimming with confidence, and, as I too 
well knew, avidly eager to make me the object of their wit 
or their cruelty. It is a fact that I encountered the latter in 
a big way. At the school my first year was a boy, better a 
young man nearly grown, whose record of expulsions from 
other schools was no trifle. We roomed together, and in 
secret, for fun, he beat me with a belt* He was past all 
peradventure a sadist. And the strange intent look on his 
face, which somehow added to my agony as the lash fell, was, 
as I now perceive, due to perverted sexuality. Anyhow such 
were his menus plaisirs, which he knew perfectly well the 
code would not permit me to betray. I have never known a 
more breathless sense of relief than when the news went 
round the school that my disciple of the great Marquis, who 
was vastly popular, had been expelled for criminality more 
venial but which had the advantage of being easily detected. 
Another instance may be adduced as an anticlimax. For 
our sins at about the same time the school was doing its best 
to educate the fat, stupid, hypothyroid scion of one of those 
distinguished Boston families, whose function it seems to be 
to produce such creatures. He weighed two hundred pounds 
and was backward physically and mentally. It was probably 
his sense of his own limitations that made him believe that 
inflicting pain on smaller boys would give him a much- 
needed feeling of superiority. At any rate for a week he 
knocked about a couple of small boys, of whom I was one, 
with much pleasure and complete impunity. In the fag-end 
of a winter afternoon he was indulging in these amiable 
diversions when the lightning struck. Upon him descended 

16 <z 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

Frank Rowland, the school's best athlete, as he was also the 
best scholar that was ever graduated from the school, and, I 
suppose, the last half-back in America who read Homer in 
the original for pleasure on his way to battles where he 
ruled the whirlwind. His experienced eye took in the situa- 
tion. With a panther-snarl such as Bagheera might have 
uttered on discovering a couple of Mowglis being chivied by 
a hyena, he seized that Bostonian lurdan by his yellow foot- 
ball crop and swung him before the eyes of his victims 
in ghastly but satisfactory arcs to and fro all round the 
room. The transition for the poor creature from cruel 
triumph to the essence of humiliating defeat was as sudden 
and appalling as anything I ever witnessed. Bajazet in the 
cage of Tamburlaine might keep some sorry shadow of dig- 
nity or defiance, but not so that howling slave. The glorious 
thing about the treatment was that it took magnificently. 
Never again to my knowledge did that bearer of a mighty 
name lift a finger against the least of God's creatures. And 
some years later when, a splendiferous Harvard senior, he 
visited the school, I was aware of some faint discomfort he 
still seemed to feel in my presence, because I knew what 
I knew. 

Against these difficulties and others there was always one 
overwhelming reason for being at the school at all. The 
headmaster John Byron Diman was and is a remarkable 
figure in American education. Only last year the boys of the 
Protestant School he founded and built up sent him seventy- 
five roses on his seventy-fifth birthday, which he passed in 
the Roman Catholic School which he likewise founded and 
built up. I loved him then and I love him now, and every 
alumnus of either school feels exactly as I do. He was the 
incarnation of humorous justice and sagacious authority. 
And in addition he was an instinctive expert in the difficult 
study of personality. Not a great teacher himself in the 
sense that he could expose a subject in an imaginative or 

17 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

charming manner, he nevertheless understood, far better 
than many a teacher who can, that teaching is the art of 
encouragement. For some years almost single-handed he 
counteracted the evils in my path. My little poems he made 
me feel were worth hammering at, when they were the 
laughing-stock of my equals and a subject of not too elegant 
irony among my teachers. And once when I was practically 
in Coventry with my mates and had achieved what was then 
the all-time high in that form of penalty which eliminated 
holidays, he wiped the slate clean and sent me forth free. I 
am happy to say that after this act of mercy I began almost 
immediately to be virtuous with respect to minor regula- 
tions, that my work picked up, and that a faint dawn 
gleamed. 

For the picture ought not to be made too black. Of course 
there were cakes and ale as well as kicks. There were picnics 
up the island to the ruined gardens of Vaucluse where the 
undipped box stood eight feet high. There were long lazy 
afternoons in fastnesses discovered among the crags where 
Bishop Berkeley wrote Alciphron. There were little dances 
in Greenough Place where I encountered creatures of my 
own age, whose ideas did not seem to involve making me ap- 
pear ridiculous. But it was not until my fifth-form year that I 
began to feel that I was not created as a source of innocent 
merriment for the inexplicably cruel. In spite of a prize or 
two for stories and poems, which on the whole increased my 
reputation for being eccentric and antisocial, I began to feel 
my oats a little. The narrow world into which I had re- 
treated opened up, if ever so slightly. I began to have a 
friend or two. And before long I could face a group of my 
competitors without feeling like a tame hare in the presence 
of a pack of wild cats. 

I have often wondered about my troubles at this time, and 
why I was so defenseless. I have no valid explanation. It is 
easy to say that I was just a horrid, self-centered little boy, 

18 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

whose corners were in process of being knocked off. It is 
equally easy to say that I was a rather nice little boy who 
got no sympathy from his companions with respect to his 
legitimate tastes. I have never understood why an interest in 
electricity or locomotives was all right with the mob, whereas 
a bent for literature or music was clear evidence that one 
was a social outcast. It was certainly true as far as I was 
concerned. And other men with whom I have talked have 
reported the same experience. Richard Aldington, for in- 
stance, ran a perpetual gauntlet at his school in England. 
Perhaps it is necessary and inescapable like blistering your 
hands at a sport you enjoy. But at any rate without institut- 
ing comparisons between myself and better men who doubt- 
less endured more, I knew before I was eighteen quite as 
much about collective cruelty as it was necessary to know. 
And I have no doubt that the morbid individualism of a 
dozen writers I could name can be attributed to their reac- 
tion against the minor persecution they suffered in child- 
hood, because of wholly innocent deviations from collective 
standards. Nor is it to be wondered at that such men are 
invariably liberals of the most embittered description. 

Whatever the value of these observations, in spite of the 
bitterness I felt and in a way still feel, I had in those years a 
sort of flowering time, like an inconspicuous plant that puts 
forth small petals under fallen leaves. I found delightful 
books in the school library, Henry Esmond, the never suffi- 
ciently praised Ingoldsby Legends, of all things an abridg- 
ment of Gibbon. A remarkable work called The Flight of a 
Tartar Tribe developed in me a permanent and almost in- 
sane curiosity about the Far East which was to bear a form 
of fruit (some people would say crab-apples) twenty years 
later. I have never been able to forget the final wholly un- 
historical episode when the genius of De Quincey conjured 
up the ghastly spectacle of Tartar and Bashkir, alike dying 
of thirst, yet carrying on their death-struggle in the bloody 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

water on the rim of the desert, while the artillery of the 
Emperor K'ien-Lung opened fire on the height. Browning 
made me drunk in a new manner, as he made McTurk in 
Stalky and Co. What a capital discovery that twenty-five 
cent Macmillan school edition turned out to be, all full of 
glass masks and slughorns. Kipling I knew almost by heart, 
and it was a red-letter day when I bought The Five Nations 
hot and hot, with the hoarded allowance of five weeks. An- 
other find, purchased on equally hard terms, was a volume 
of The Bibelot which contained William Morris' "Hollow 
Land/' Stevenson's "Father Damien," and an intelligent se- 
lection of the poems of John Donne, not to mention Henry 
King's "Exequy." I am happy to think that "Then let us 
melt and make no noise" came home to my business and 
bosom, as it should have done and that I was already aware 
that not much magic is more magical than 

"Stay for me there. I shall not fail 
To meet thee in that hollow vale." 

Poe was another active chemical. And I know that, as I 
looked across a little bay at the mist-softened McKim, 
Meade and White Touraine Castles on the Newport Cliffs, 
that the "City in the Sea" was in my mind, the more beau- 
tiful by contrast. Whitman, Emerson, a hundred others I 
did not know. And one thing is grievous to me still, for I 
turned the pages of a book, in which at the time my ignorant 
eyes saw nothing. Twenty years later it became to me, what 
it still is, a sort of secular Bible. But one is ashamed even of 
childish stupidity. Obsessed by the romantic and the pic- 
turesque, I utterly failed to see the naked beauty of The 
Natural History of Selborne. 

The failure is all the worse because that book should 
have been right up the alley of a boy who was eaten up by 
the glory of the environment. The white beaches, the huge 
curve of ocean to the south, the savin-darkened glens of 

20 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

Paradise, the irrational cleft of Purgatory, in some way upon 
those things I fed. I can see in the cramped, awkward and 
imitative little poems that I wrote in defiance of popular 
hostility some faint connection with what I felt about in- 
escapable beauty around. Winter suns getting up over Gay 
Head or going down behind the long combination of Monte 
Carlo and Cranford, otherwise called Newport, a mile of 
white water under the equinox, ospreys beating despairing 
wings about their ravished nest, the Poe-Dore perspectives of 
Vaucluse, pudding-stone and laurel, I possess these things. 
Nor am I ashamed. 

There was one vivid and prolonged interruption of my 
studies. At the end of my first miserable year at school we 
went abroad for six months. My father was by this time a 
sort of liaison-officer between the American company and 
its European parent. He had to cross practically every year 
and this time took us all with him. It was worth while in 
those days to come into the mouth of the British channel, 
where the tall square-riggers literally crowded the waters. It 
looked like old prints of a sea fight without the smoke. And 
I don't suppose anyone realized that in half a generation 
those great and beautiful things would be swept from every 
sea. 

We slid up the Scheldt to Antwerp and life at once be- 
came a study in the kaleidoscopic. Brussels, Paris, Geneva, 
London were a salmagundi in the brain. Pictures, people, 
places, excited and perplexed. I did not understand my 
mother's natural horror when she discovered that my sister 
and I had paid an unlicensed, though supervised, visit to the 
Musee Wiertz, where we had examined with interest the 
Belgian maniac's picture of Napoleon in hell and the nota- 
bly realistic "Last Second of a Suicide." I think she was 
better pleased when that remarkable and simple gentleman 
Ernest Solvay showed me the fifteen-foot Iguanodons he had 
caused to be set up in the natural history museum. They 

21 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

made as great an impression as Wiertz and a distinctly less 
sadistic one. Paris was merely a complex of noise and dirt 
that it took me years to get over. But the Eiffel Tower gave 
me my first inkling of what it is not to have a head for a 
height, a horror that no effort of the will has enabled me to 
overcome. The memories crowd, but two I select. I am glad 
I walked over the Col de Balme with my father and saw 
the black flanks of the Dent d'Argentiere dripping and 
glistening from the melting snow. And I have never forgot- 
ten a crystalline day, when, from a summit in the Jura be- 
hind Lausanne, I saw the Lake of Geneva at my feet with 
the windows of tiny cities glittering in the sun, and beyond 
the forty-mile-long cobalt crescent the whole wall of the 
Alps unflecked by a cloud. On such a day one may see from 
the Dole, the Chamouni range, the Monte Rosa, the Mat- 
terhorn, and the Bernese Oberland. All that I beheld. I am 
not fool enough to attempt description. Salvation may be 
hoped in vain from the multitude of mountains, but even 
small boys may get something from such a sight. 

A little travel in Switzerland was followed by a half-term 
at the Cantonal school of Petit Saconnex, where I acquired 
that inaccurate facility in the French tongue for which I am 
celebrated. The experience was not unpleasant, even if I did 
discover small boys whose natural method of defense was 
scratching. Also for a wonder I was the physical cock of the 
walk and perhaps threw my weight about a little. Like my 
father before me I grew fond of the Swiss, who still seem to 
me one of the most interesting peoples in Europe. Stolid 
hotel-keepers they may appear to the not too brilliant tour- 
ist, but I know no country where so great a proportion of 
the people get such a kick out of life. And even as a child 
I recognized their pleasant humor and their natural kind- 
ness, which I have found alike in peasant and in aristocrat. 
Later on, as a man, it seemed to me not unnatural that in 
my lifetime a population no larger than Chicago's should 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

have produced a world-painter, a world-poet, and one of the 
two great psychologists of the times. 

A tiny encounter may be mentioned because it links 
times not ordinarily thought of as capable of contact. My 
father took me to call on a former teacher of his at the 
College de Geneve, where he had prepared for Yale. The 
professor not only appeared unspeakably old, but really was, 
for he remembered how the news of Waterloo had been 
whispered in his father's dining-room in some Burgundian 
village. The family were royalists and dreaded Bonapartist 
riots as a result of the disaster. Also he had talked with Alex- 
ander von Humboldt, which sounds almost as far back as 
Archimedes. There is some queer pleasure for me at least in 
having seen a man who could have heard the drums of the 
Grande Arme. 

The Swiss interlude came to an end, and we headed for 
home by way of London in an exciting time. The great 
Queen was still on the throne. But I was not aware of im- 
pending change as I watched a performance of Pinafore 
with the original Dick Dead-Eye and the original Little 
Buttercup at the Savoy. Ruddigore would have been more 
appropriate, for that delightful piece contains Gilbert's 
horn-pipe epitaph on the Victorians: 

Duty! Duty must be done. 
This rule applies to everyone. 

And it was high time to think of epitaphs. The rampant 
imperialism of a Chamberlain quite unlike either of his 
sons was expressed in the huge exposition at Earlscourt, 
where my fancy was much tickled by a fountain of mercury 
with lumps of iron bobbing on the surface of the liquid 
metal, and still more by a fantasia called "Savage South 
Africa." Buffalo Bill was tame and trifling when compared 
with authentic Zulus armed with genuine assegais and knob- 
kerries and yelling like all Rider Haggard, as they were 

23 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

beaten off by heroic Colonials who only had machine-guns. 
A few days later, I heard the newsboys screaming "Lady- 
smith besieged!'* A small boy did not notice any more than a 
responsible statesman that the stable system of things had 
cracks in the facade. But it was clear that South Africa had 
gone definitely savage. 

We spent a few days at Gloucester with my father's re- 
markable friend John Bellows, the author of the extraor- 
dinary little French Dictionary, the perfect model of what 
such a book should be. He had not only written the book, 
but he had printed and bound the first copies with his own 
hands. I still think of that quaint Quaker with real admira- 
tion. He was awfully close to being a great man, from which 
his eccentricities of thought and conduct in no way de- 
tracted. Curiously enough for a Quaker he had a passion for 
Gothic architecture, but when he took us to Gloucester 
Cathedral, he remained outside, because he would not re- 
move his hat in a building built with hands and he would 
not give offense by going in with it on. He, it was, who first 
pointed out to me that nouns and verbs excel adjectives 
when it comes to making an idea tell. 

John Bellows (it was difficult for a small boy to call him 
John, which one had to do because his creed forbade the use 
of honorifics) had played one curious r61e in modern literary 
history. He had got interested in the Doukhobors, who bear 
a faint Slavic resemblance to the Quakers, and who were 
being seriously oppressed by the Russian government, be- 
cause they refused to serve in the army. Not only that, but 
he enlisted the services of Count Tolstoi in raising money 
to transport the unhappy creatures to Canada. Tolstoi had 
long since given up literature as a vanity of this world. But 
at Bellows' insistence and for a good cause, he took up his 
pen and wrote Resurrection, which I believe was simultane- 
ously published in six languages. The Doukhobors' tickets 
were easily purchased with the proceeds, but the horror of 

24 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

John Bellows, when he read the wholly immoral work 
which he had persuaded Tolstoi to write, was only equaled 
by the bewilderment of Tolstoi when he found that Bellows 
was horrified. The whole correspondence, conducted on 
both sides in a spirit of superb forbearance, is worth reading 
for the spectacle it presents of two fine creatures utterly and 
entirely unable to understand each other. 

We sailed from war-intoxicated England on a six-thou- 
sand-ton freighter into the worst storm I have ever seen at 
sea. For four or five days racks were on the tables and trunks 
shot from side to side of staterooms. Then the sea became 
glass and I saw the wonders of the deep. With a passenger- 
list of thirteen, a boy had the run of the ship. I had wan- 
dered into the very bows under the jack-staff and was staring 
at the obsidian-black water, when it happened. With a mag- 
nificent leap a porpoise sprang out of the sea within ten feet 
of me, followed by four or five others. I could have touched 
their shining backs with a billiard-cue, and no tongue their 
beauty might declare. The huge creatures were the very 
spirit of all gay triumphant life. I don't know how long they 
played at the bows of the Cestrian, but when they vanished 
as suddenly as they came, I was like a man bereaved. The 
tyrant of Syracuse who stamped their beautiful free images 
on his coins must have been a better man than his treatment 
of Plato would indicate. 

A week later I took the hateful journey to Newport and 
the gates of learning shut with a clang. 

If I had a miserable time at school during those years, no 
one had a pleasanter one during the long vacations. My 
father had spent splendid holidays twenty years before on a 
lake in central New Hampshire, and in 1900 he bought a 
cottage on a hill overlooking the scene of his pleasures. 
There we spent many summers and I became a boy of black 
bass and acquainted with pickerel. At one time I must have 
known every inch of Lake Asquam. I early got the habit of 

25 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

getting up long before dawn and rowing four or five miles 
up the lake to a favorite hole. Why favorite holes are never 
less than five miles away remains an enigma. Often the 
equally mad came as far to fish at a reef a stone's throw from 
our boathouse, where I would have scorned to drop a line. 
From the silvery dawns when I went down the trail past the 
basswood clump, past the big pine, past the dew-soaked 
mooseberries, to come out on the lake, "pallid as a fish's 
belly," with nothing to indicate day except a green phos- 
phorescence over Red Hill, I am certain I derived a sense of 
the connection of things, that under no circumstances would 
I give up. A cold feeling in the stomach, three to five miles 
hard rowing, the clank of oar-locks, the gaunt arms of a pine 
against salmon-rose cloud, the anchor thudding under, with 
bubbles rising from the white manila hairs of the rope, and 
"a solemn settling down to devour breakfast/' such things 
are hard to be spoken and convey little to the uninitiated, 
who are apt to wonder what value they possess in comparison 
with the * 'womb-like warmth of a good bed." I personally 
believe that they have something to do with a species of 
rebirth, which to resign would be like giving up existence 
itself. A sort of not-being is avoided by such expeditions 
the not-being which results from continual association with 
so many people that one cannot know them, the curse of the 
times. Accordingly a blank day with respect to capture was 
hardly a penalty. The passage of a heron on slow-beating 
wing, the sheldrake caught asleep, the mink moving snakily 
in the water six feet over-side, more than indemnified one 
for the jests of the ignorant. And to this day images which 
I acquired then appear, however inadequately, in my verses. 
A branch of pepperidge as scarlet in August as maple in 
October, the "Brocken-spectre" of a pine enlarged beyond 
any sequoia on the translucent screen of mist, the leap of a 
gallant three-pounder that got gloriously away, and the driv- 
ing anger of a sixty-mile squall engendered out of the moun- 

26 



PICTURES AND SCHOOLS 

tains* understandable contempt, remain with me as a sort of 
wealth, as the commonplace puts it, not taxable by any 
method yet devised by Mr. Morgenthau. To that extent I 
am glad, like a better poet, that I am a cold and calculating 
profiteer. 

From such delights I returned annually to a school that 
grew easier against the pull of the collar. I began to see the 
good and the gain of it, to perceive that many things were 
very good indeed, for all my earlier unhappiness. I think the 
curriculum left something to be desired. Things were left 
out that might well have been taught. A good deal was 
taught that might well have been left out. But masters whom 
I had come to know and like sent me to Yale with the Latin 
and Greek verbs reasonably intact and in my possession. 
And I have not yet learned to believe that the standard of 
personal conduct they set up, however I may have failed to 
abide by it, was merely the resultant of conflicting nine- 
teenth-century hypocrisies. The place was certainly more up 
and coming than the English schools of the period (with the 
possible exception of Oundle), for we must, I suppose, be- 
lieve Professor Joad, who boasts in his memoirs that about 
my time he got into Oxford without ever having heard of 
Darwin. We had not, it is true, arrived as yet at the modern 
conveniences of the class-struggle, gestalt-psychologie, and 
scientific pedagogy. But I myself had seen the submicro- 
scopic volcano of the spinthariscope, and some of us were 
aware of innovations in the sciences, not to mention the 
arts. Anyhow as the first automobiles began to snort more 
confidently at terrified horses, and the first aeroplane fright- 
ened the gulls of Kitty Hawk, the hardest phase of my edu- 
cation came to an end that caused me actual grief. 



III 



TALE1 



As FAR as anything can be foreordained it was foreordained 
that I should go to Yale. My father was graduated in 1879, 
his father was graduated in 1849, and his father in 1820. 
The uncles and cousins were a multitude, like which the 
populous North poured never from her frozen loins. There 
were only five of them on the faculty when I entered in 
1905. And to have considered another university was as un- 
thinkable for me as the hypothesis that Marx might be in 
error somewhere would be for Earl Browder. Many a young 
man of these succeeding times has reasoned in a wholly 
different manner, desiring the mere adventure of entering a 
region unknown, not to mention avoiding the handicap of 
a binding tradition. But the modern convention of sniping 
at old ones was still in the womb of a later decade when I 
went up for my examinations. And I am happy that in this 
instance I followed the track beaten by twenty or more of 
my house. 

My first contact with the university was extraordinarily 
agreeable. In queer old sham-Gothic Alumni Hall at the 
end of a soft June afternoon, I laid my blue examination 
book on a pile before an old gentleman who had the beard 
and air of Capitolian Jupiter. He glanced at my name on the 

28 



YALE 1 

book and turning with a godlike smile said to me: "It's good 
to see them coming back.'' What kinder word could have 
been said to a timid sub-Freshman? Fifty yards away in space 
and thirty-two years removed in time, I saw the son of that 
old gentleman elevated to the purple of the University 
Presidency. I hope that on that occasion somebody said 
something to Charles Seymour that touched him as much as 
his father's remark touched me. 

Freshman year began for me under good auspices. Every- 
thing had a blaze of glamour and interest. The very weather 
seemed lovelier than what one had experienced. And for 
boys who had known the discipline and regularity of church- 
schools there was a sense of Wordsworthian liberty in the 
air. There was novelty in the approach even to subjects not 
unfamiliar. But, with the exception of English and German, 
I think we were not particularly well taught, or rather that 
the conception of teaching was poor. Boys who had had five 
to seven years of Latin were kept nibbling like mice at a 
rind of Livy or a crust of Tacitus. If our interest were not 
to die in a waste of ablative absolutes and pregnant con- 
structions, they should have rushed us through great land- 
scapes of Roman poetry rapidly, without too much attention 
to whether or no we had noticed a partitive genitive. It was 
the pupil's sense of never finishing anything, of never get- 
ting outside of an author, the feeling that only half the 
Aeneid needed to be read, thank God! which killed curiosity 
about writers who never can die. Dwelling for a month on 
ten pages of a work like the Germania will make you weary 
of its rhetorical and grammatical botany. But Latin was 
being made easy for us and, in proportion to the ease, dull. 
All I remember of that course is that the instructor was a 
thoroughly agreeable and sympathetic man, whose heroic 
efforts to connect a great language and literature with con- 
temporary interests were beyond description futile, and 
must have been, given the system that prevailed. Greek was 

29 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

a little better. Here again I liked the teacher, but what kind 
of a meal is half a dialogue of Plato, a few juicy bits of 
Herodotus and, horrible to state, excerpts from Homer who 
should be read entire if at all? To geld that stallion is an 
insult to God. And it was well within our powers to have 
read the Iliad through in a year, and to have known some- 
thing, including a sense of achievement, French was a trifle, 
even more implacably designed for the benefit of the intel- 
lectually under-privileged. One could do it with the left 
hand or not at all. It made no difference. From the German 
course I actually derived something. And by that I do not 
mean anything like even a working knowledge of that diffi- 
cult tongue. But I learned enough to see how beautiful the 
lyrical poetry was, which was and is clear gain. As if to 
make up for these relatively disappointing experiences of 
advanced education, Freshman English was wildly exciting. 
Here at least one was not fobbed off with specimens soaked 
in academic formaldehyde, or with condensations for the 
feeble-minded. One read whole books and entire poems, 
The repertory of honorable pleasure was added to. And 
though the expansion of the horizon might not be so enor- 
mous as one believed, when Byron swam into one's ken, at 
least it was not being pedantically narrowed. Though I am 
personally strongly opposed to the proliferation of English 
departments in the universities of this republic, I owe a 
great deal to that particular course and to the human sym- 
pathy of the not too successful man who conducted it. 

At this point I might just as well get rid of some general 
remarks on the subject of Yale, which, partly through its 
own fault, is the most misunderstood university in the coun- 
try. Whatever nine out of ten of the alumni of other insti- 
tutions may have to say, Yale is not a gladiatorial school, 
with a more than enviable record of triumph in the amphi- 
theater. The impression is widespread and certain gradu- 
ates of the university are largely to blame, a generation not 

> 30 



YALE 1 

of vipers but of bankers and brokers. Everyone knows the 
type, which is by no means a specifically Yale product 
Harvard and Princeton turn out quantities of the same sort 
of animal every commencement. Whatever their proveni- 
ence they have, as has been noticed before, the same marks, 
the same look of self-satisfaction, the same well-cut clothes 
with the ties just a trifle on the loud side, very generally the 
strange distinction of never having been players themselves, 
and the still stranger one of having lost every trace of the 
cultivation, with which in their time they had been threat- 
ened, except that they once saw Hinkey plain and drank 
vicarious delight of battle with heroes of "the Hefflefmgered 
dawn/' It is unpleasant to think that such persons are un- 
aware, and glad to be unaware, of the existence of the Yale 
of Silliman, of Marsh, of William Dwight Whitney, of 
William Graham Sumner, of Willard Gibbs, the last of 
whom they may actually have pushed off the sidewalk dur- 
ing the hullabaloo of the great annual games. 

Gibbs was still alive when my class entered. But I doubt 
if there were ten men in it who knew that the greatest 
scientist born in the Western hemisphere walked among us, 
as we pursued our important affairs. I knew he existed, be- 
cause of my father's anecdote about the models of Gibbs' 
mathematical surfaces in the great man's office. My father 
was something of a tease and he knew Gibbs was modest to 
a fault. "Professor Gibbs," he said, "who made those mod- 
els?" Gibbs in great confusion refused to tell him. As my 
father knew, the models had been made by Clerk-Maxwell 
with his own hands, and sent as a present to the only Amer- 
ican of the nineteenth century whose name is likely to out- 
last Lincoln's. In the great Yankee phrase anything that 
tends to make youth oblivious of a man like that ought to 
be stopped. 

In spite of the ruling passion which was part of the cause 
of that obliviousness, and in the teeth of my strictures on 

3 1 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the courses of Freshman year, the university was a most en- 
lightening place. There were plenty of teachers who abso- 
lutely opened the mind. In fact I only had two courses which 
I should describe as inadequate after the first year. One in 
French was conducted by an unhappy creature who had 
been highly recommended to Yale by the President of Har- 
vard, after the manner of C. W. Eliot, when he wished to 
get rid of an undesirable. The other was in the History of 
the Lower Empire, and I could have managed it better my- 
self. But these were exceptional. Judd in psychology, how- 
ever given to nineteenth-century materialism, made ana- 
tomy and physiology, as prolegomena to his subject, come 
alive, and delivered us to speculations beyond our strength, 
always a fine thing. Kreider in physics was the best teacher 
I ever saw, an ideal come true. A gang of seniors with hang- 
overs and otherwise not prepared for intellectual debate, 
grew wild with excitement as that blond Mephistopheles, 
with a mixture of irony and enthusiasm, drew from un- 
willing lips, faltering admissions that with dramatic sudden- 
ness elucidated the hitherto wholly boring behavior of the 
atom. I never knew a man who came so near to the Platonic 
ideal of the Socratic method. To give any idea of him I 
must parody a friend's parody: "By the Dog! Charmides, 
did you not tell me but a minute ago, that at absolute zero 
there is, and can be, no motion of any kind?" I am not 
unmindful of my good fortune in having heard a master 
play. 

Ellsworth Huntington, I am certain, hated lecturing (in 
which after thirteen chequered years of it, I can heartily 
sympathize with him), but nevertheless he stays in nay mind 
as someone momentous. The ideas derived from the study 
of geography and climate that seemed to hover around him 
rather than to come from him, may have been applied to 
history with premature enthusiasm. But certainly there was 
excitement in them. And I cannot escape the belief that, 

32 



YALE 1 

however he may have been wrong in detail, the hypotheses 
he worked on corresponded with the facts in the large. Also 
it was something to a boy who had never been ten miles 
from a highway, to visit Asia in thought, with a man who 
had sat down in the middle of the Gobi Desert to write up 
his diary, after the stampede of camels, whose more than 
probable failure to return would make the continuation of 
that diary wholly impossible. 

A favorite indoor sport of the soi-disant intellectuals, that 
dubious race who live by their brains and have no brains, 
has been the hurling of reasonably clumsy darts at William 
Lyon Phelps. With many of his spoken words and his writ- 
ten pronouncements, I myself could not possibly agree, and 
I dare say he might not subsequently himself. Enthusiasm 
is his metier and enthusiasm is the mother of contradiction. 
When he says that Cyrano de Bergerac is the greatest play 
since Shakespeare, or that Tristram Shandy is a dull book, 
all he means is that he has been burnt up by the fire of 
Rostand, which emphatically exists, and disgusted by the 
grossness of Sterne, who can be gross as hell. Neither of 
these remarks happens to coincide with my opinions, but I 
infinitely prefer his exaggerated over-statement of genuine 
feeling to the well-weighed, cautious, non-committal utter- 
ance of persons who have not hesitated to criticize him, not 
without bitterness. However he may have been blamed for 
what after all is mere rhetoric, the literary resurgence at 
New Haven, which began in the nineties and continues to 
this hour, is due at least in part to his personal I said 
personal efforts. For forty years there was no undergradu- 
ate with literary ambitions, on whose immature flowers the 
healing waters of Phelps's kindness did not fall. Sinclair 
Lewis and Stephen Bent knew it well. He would walk half 
across the campus to tell you that he liked something you 
had written in the Lit or the Courant. And he knew per- 
fectly well that there were no better composition courses. 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

It is for such reasons I believe that the ineptitude of per- 
sons who pillory his occasionally hasty remarks is about 
equal to their malignity. Phelps had a function which he 
performed far better than they performed theirs, and of all 
men Albert Stanburrough Cook, whose personality was the 
North Pole against Phelps's Tropic, knew this and told 
me so. 

Cook was as easy to hate as Phelps was to like. Courses, 
elementary and advanced, in enduring him should have 
been offered by the English faculty. One might have easily 
said that was what his own courses were. He hardly ever 
opened his lips without saying something dogmatic to which 
you were automatically opposed, or something pedantic to 
which reply seemed unnecessary. His methods of teaching 
were all his own, and strange enough they were. Thus his 
first assignment in Old English (you said Anglo-Saxon at 
your peril) was a work on Japanese chivalry (since proved to 
be a figment of the mind) called Bushido and vast juiceless 
segments of Montalembert's desiccated Monks of the West. 
These were supposed to engender a state of mind proper 
to the evaluation of the over-rated Beowulf, the nugatory 
"Judith" and the exciting "Battle of Brunanburh" 
Whether they did or no, it is certain that his tongue dripped 
poison in the classroom, as bitter as ever fell on Loki's brow. 
I have seen him so havoc an ugly and unintelligent woman 
graduate-student that the men in the class were trembling 
between rage and amusement, while the women, glaring like 
Megaeras at the oblivious tyrant, almost visibly locked their 
shields round the victim to protect her. I fancy he would 
have been astounded, if he had had the faintest notion of 
the passions he unloosed. Or perhaps he would only have 
laughed his mirthless laugh that always made me think of 
Fontenelle's: "Quelque fois j'ai dit ha ha." Either way it 
would have been a side-issue of his work, and "Blessed be 
drudgery 11 was his motto. He made that point abundantly 

34 



YALE 1 

clear to the slaves in his intellectual harem, whom he daily 
"slippered and filled with the red pepper of his contempt." 
Some men hated him so that ten years after his death I 
have heard them speak of him with bitterness not even the 
grave could quench. But if you were lucky enough to get 
past a critical point, you suddenly found yourself, in de- 
fiance of reasonable probability and quite against your will, 
actually admiring the old devil. Philology was his mother. 
Literature was his love. And like all men who have been 
overdependent on their mothers he was not too understand- 
ing with respect to his mistress. Thus he was almost gro- 
tesquely incapable of appraising properly the unfamiliar 
and the new. And he would go off at half-cock about some 
modern abortion that he could fit into his oversymmetrical 
system of poetics. I think he really valued Milton and Dante 
as they should be valued, but I wish it had occurred to me 
to push home on the subject of Rabelais and so perhaps dis- 
cover his nakedness. Nevertheless he was the first man who 
made clear to me the nobility of English as a language. No 
better tongue has been spoken or written by man, and Cook 
worshiped English, and could show you what was worship- 
ful about it. However much I may mishandle it, he made 
me yearn not to. And at least in that connection his selfless 
enthusiasm burned away every vestige of pettifogging schol- 
arship and academic pretense. In addition to this virtue he 
had the abrupt and not unpleasing frankness of those who 
are usually humorless. Life was strangely good to him, for 
in his later years, with visible reluctance, he grew kind to 
the point of gentleness. By that time I was absolutely fond 
of him and never missed a chance of calling in Bishop 
Street. On one occasion I brought him a copy of my transla- 
tion of The Song of Roland. He was pleased by the trib- 
ute and asked me on what new work I might be en- 
gaged. I answered that a long satiric poem was on the ways. 
"How long?" "About eight thousand lines," "Ah," he said 

35 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

after a moment, "Longue aleine." The mingled allusiveness, 
courtesy, and irony of that remark will only be gathered by 
the few who have read both The Song of Roland and my 
mock-epic. I hated him, I came to love him, and the news 
of the funeral of that grammarian was a grief to me. 

Cook's most celebrated pupil was, and thank God is, 
Chauncey Tinker, by all odds the best lecturer in Yale for 
thirty years. Harvard in vain offered him the flesh-pots of 
Cambridge. And the remark of one of her brahmins on 
Tinker's refusal: "Professor Tinker ought to have consid- 
ered his academic advancement," is remembered happily by 
all connoisseurs of unconscious humor. Tinker's famous 
course "Johnson and His Circle" is not so much a course as 
a living experience, like a journey in a beautiful and excit- 
ing country. Twenty years after I had taken it and after 
giving a pale version of it for four or five years myself, I 
slipped into a vacant seat in the rear row of his lecture- 
room. Halfway through he saw me and I knew from some 
experience of the Tinkerian expression how he resented the 
interloper. Brazenly I remained, and I am glad I did, for 
the performance was as delightful to a man of forty-two as 
it was to a boy of twenty-one. To assist the scholar he has 
drawn on every art known to the actor. And no man who 
ever listened to him has ever forgot. More than a magnifi- 
cent teacher, he has been to me a magnificent friend and 
philosopher. And it was he, who between mirth and con- 
tempt bullied me into taking Kreider's course of sprouts in 
physics, as two pennyworth of bread against the infinite 
deal of literary sack I had chosen as suitable beverage for 
my senior year. Following that wholly advantageous advice 
incidentally came within an ace of costing me my degree. 

In close conjunction with Tinker at the time there was 
another more saturnine planet, who was an especial cyno- 
sure, Brian Hooker, the only poet I ever knew who really 
understood the laws of metrics. By guess and by God is the 

36 



YALE 1 

usual method. But Brian knew more about prosody than 
Saintsbury and Omond rolled into one. The principles he 
formulated he enunciated, between periods of reflection, in 
his course on verse composition, which I for one found 
bloody well interesting. I also believe that I drove him 
practically insane by dogging him as if he were a criminal 
and by believing, to his visible horror, every word that pro- 
ceeded out of his mouth. Nothing, as the wise have noted, 
is more disconcerting. Nor shall I forget his look of agony, 
when, having run him to earth at the "Players," I demanded 
an answer to a little question that troubled me at the time. 
It was only to know whether or no I should devote my life 
to poetry. A neater piece of sagacious evasion I do not re- 
member to have encountered. 

In some ways the most noteworthy figure of all was Henry 
Augustine Beers. I roomed with one of his sons and thus 
enjoyed a certain extra-curricular intimacy with the old 
gentleman, that could not be overvalued. Beers was literally 
a heaven-born genius, defeated in the common sense of the 
word by fate. Quite early in his career but after he had given 
fortune plenty of hostages, his most familiar friend com- 
mitted suicide, and Beers, on a professor's salary, supported 
the dead man's family as well as his own quiverful. How 
he boiled the two pots God only knows. But his textbooks 
on the history of Romanticism sold well, and a poet of the 
first order was the sacrificial victim of his own altruism. His 
lectures were in the main rather dull affairs, but at some 
point invariably illuminated by such a flash of suggestion 
or wit as no two-spot could have dreamed. You had to be 
on your toes, for he never by any chance by any change of 
tone gave warning of the imminent bolt. It was as if he 
desired to conceal his lightnings. Athletes and dumb-bells 
slumbered unrebuked in his classes. And I think he would 
have sympathized with them, had he by any chance noticed 
them. For all the undergraduate could see, he was a nice 

37 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

old man, who gave a student no trouble whatever. But call 
on him by his own fireside with the instructed or the for- 
tunate. He offered you a cigar as dry as the White King's 
hay from a Chinese jar on the mantelpiece. And this you 
had to smoke. Now I have smoked cigars given me by ga- 
rage men or proprietors of New England general stores, but 
no man has any notion of desiccated horror unless he has 
smoked with Beers. It was worth it. The rite properly ini- 
tiated, he unlocked his word-hoard. And I can think of no 
comparison apter than of a connoisseur unrolling kake- 
monos before you. The depth, delicacy, and artistic econ- 
omy of his pictures of what he had seen or known remain 
unrivaled in my experience. A word and he had sketched 
Emerson or Hawthorne with a Rembrandt stroke. Forgot- 
ten poets of the seventies were suddenly as they had been 
before they lost the future. No aspect of life and literature 
that he did not touch and adorn with his beautiful New 
England Doric speech. He made you see the beauty that 
you had neglected, the connection you had missed. If Cook 
first exhibited to me the nervous power of English, it was 
Beers who made it clear that it became a man to have read 
Greek epic and Greek tragedy, and that you had better know 
your Dante and your Goethe too. If I plowed through the 
whole Odyssey after I got out of college, and years after- 
wards with such Greek as an American has at forty tackled 
the Agamemnon, the Bacchae, and the Alcestis, it was in 
great measure due to him. There wasn't a trace of the 
pedant about him, nor do I remember hearing him utter 
the word scholarship. Certainly no pedant that ever was 
born could have covered the world of literature as he cov- 
ered it. I despair of painting the mere appearance of the 
delightful old creature as he sat, his face all courteous sym- 
pathy, smoking his god-awful cigar in the firelight. And I 
utterly despair of giving, and forswear even the attempt to 



YALE 1 

give, any account of the golden talk, whose like, I dimly 
knew, I should seldom hear again. 

Last, not as most important but for another reason, I set 
"Napoleon" Wheeler, whose Modern European History was 
as entertaining and enlightening as Tinker's great course. 
He had earned his soubriquet. The epic of Bonaparte was 
part of the fiber of his brain. And it was an article of student 
faith that at his famous annual "Waterloo Lecture" tears 
ran down his iron cheek when it became necessary for him 
to unravel the skein of blunder and accident, that resulted 
in Grouchy's fatal maneuver. In 1867 or thereabouts he had 
seen a bastard of the Emperor, Prince Roland Bonaparte, 
I think, presiding harmlessly at some meeting of the In- 
stitut de France. And his voice had the whole Marseillaise 
in it when he mentioned the circumstance. No doubt his 
ideas and methods would be ruled out of court by the 
economist historians of these times, who as yet are blissfully 
unaware that the psychological school is already knocking at 
their gate, to mete out to them the measure they meted to 
the more entertaining Leckys and Macaulays. I never knew 
Professor Wheeler well, but he took some faint interest in 
me and once said to me something curiously personal. "You 
write verses, do you not?" he asked me. I admitted it. He 
went on: "Don't give it up. I knew a man, who did." By 
mere chance I knew of his own son's brilliant beginning and 
subsequent disaster. And it was to that I suppose that he 
alluded. The last lecture he delivered before he retired was 
to the address of the last class I attended before we were 
graduated. The circumstance was not without its sentiment 
and its symbolism. His comment on a moment, which had 
its point for us as for him, might be foreign to the easier, 
looser-girt taste of our time, but I fancy that Samuel John- 
son might have said of the stiff rhetoric: "Very well, sir. You 
have said well, sir." 

The more I consider my pastors and masters the more 

39 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

they appear a remarkable lot. Nor do I think I am seeing 
them through the conventional golden haze. They knew 
their subjects, they developed them ably, and they encour- 
aged by-products which, it is a commonplace to say it, are 
quite as important in the world of the mind as in the world 
of technology. Not a day passes, but I have reason to thank 
them for the extras. One could hardly say more. 



40 



IV 



TALE 2 



A GREAT part of the last chapter was devoted to shepherds. 
In this I propose to deal with some parts of the system of 
oviculture and an occasional sheep. Life at New Haven in 
the ultra-violet decade was in some ways simpler, in some 
ways more stereotyped, and by no means better than at 
present. I am reasonably sure that the run of the mine 
undergraduate today is a higher animal than our average 
thirty years ago. He has to be. It is harder to get in and to 
stay in than of old. Also almost before he enters he knows 
that the huge choice of possibilities that lay before us has 
been disconcertingly narrowed. We could lie on our oars 
in calm seas and drift comfortably toward innumerable en- 
chanted islands. There aren't any calm seas any more. And 
the fortunate islands seem to have vanished in volcanic dis- 
turbances. At least they do not appear on the charts of any 
admiralty. The unfit, the ignorant, the dull, not infre- 
quently in our time found themselves holding simply ele- 
gant cards at the poker table of fortune. That, I think, we 
knew or suspected and it did not diminish a sense that the 
four years were meant to be carefree. But even a Princeton 
Sophomore knows better now, when he sees the able and 
intelligent thrown out of jobs on their ear. It is reasonable 

41 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

to ask whether the undergraduate today is to be pitied or 
congratulated because of the loss of Paradise. 

One came, one saw, one was accepted or ignored by the 
"social system/' the hierarchy of fantastically secret societies. 
Timidly one beheld "far off three mountain-tops, three silent 
pinnacles," "Bones," "Keys," "Wolfs Head 7 ' overshadowing 
the lesser bulk of "Elihu Club" and the mere foothills of 
the fraternities. Of the three hundred and twenty men in 
my class, I venture to guess that only two Chinamen and 
a couple of negroes had given no thought to these features 
of the moral landscape, and one of the Chinamen actually 
made a successful ascent of one of the lower summits. The 
other Chinaman, an able, brilliant, and high-minded man, 
was abandoned to his non- Aryan fate. We endeavored in a 
somewhat sour manner to be jovial about the system. Arthur 
Baker's limerick about the junior fraternities is still remem- 
bered: 

Alcibiades was Alpha Delta Phi 
And Rameses the Great was Zeta PL 
And though Shylock was a Jew 
Still they took him in Psi U. 
But Socrates was Beta Theta PL 

Four or five years ago I was exquisitely surprised, when a 
sort of rejoinder to this quip, this time about the senior 
societies, was quoted to me by an undergraduate, intact, 
handed down by oral tradition, just as it was written twenty 
years before. It does not run so easily as Arthur Baker's, but 
it has the extreme merit of mentioning explicitly the utterly 
unmentionable, and I believe I wrote it myself. 

/ saw Aristides taken into "Bones." 
And I hailed the glad event in joyful tones. 
But when Alcibiades 
Had the nerve to throw down "Keys" 
And Pericles went "Wolfs Head," there were groans. 
42 



YALE 5 

Anyone who ever witnessed an old-fashioned tap-day, when 
the applause or hisses of the mob were a striking part of 
the drama, will perceive that the picture, however feeble, 
is realistic enough. And anyone who has seen the track- 
captain of his year weep without shame when he at length 
realized that the hand of fate was not going to be laid on 
his shoulder, will, I think, agree with me that the order of 
things stood, as it still stands, in need of modification. In 
this as in more important matters the minor pleasures of 
the few depend to an unnecessary degree upon the disap- 
pointment of the many. 

Certainly I was not above such ambitions, and quite as 
certainly I had not been a week in New Haven, before I 
knew that I should never do more than drink from one of 
the lesser chalices, which in time came to pass. Happily for 
me I had a real interest in literature and was determined to 
be a poet, cost what it might. And this vainglorious desire, 
which had the merit of being honest and real, saved me 
from a lot of tremulous intrigue and from the immoderate 
heart-burning of those who thought only of the Junior-year 
lottery. Also that desire threw me almost at once into de- 
lightful contact with a group of sympathetic young men, 
Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors, who had similar tastes. 
Before us the Lit appeared, a glorious goal more desirable, 
believe it or not, than any quantity of Bones. Monthly we 
besieged the portals, bearing things we hoped were unat- 
tempted yet in prose or rhyme. 

The Lit at that time had an office in the basement of 
White Hall, where the editors, portentous Seniors, sat in 
season to skin and flay. Cabalistic marks beside their initials 
on our manuscripts indicated how little they thought of 
ewe-lambs. And for once in his life, the sucking author was 
exposed to criticism which, however incompetent, was as 
honest as it ever gets. Blinded by no consideration except 
their own likes and dislikes, the young gods sat in broken- 

43 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

down chairs around a circular table, and in turn took the 
neophyte on horrible intellectual excursions. With splendid 
brutality they abused ineptitude or sentimentality, or in 
more favorable mood suggested changes or omissions. They 
were not learned young men, but for real assistance to the 
ambitious, they were unrivaled, for besides being an edito- 
rial board they were a sort of skeleton public as well. Rank 
idealists, with no axe of whatever kind to grind, they praised 
or they sacrificed as the spirit moved them. And up to the 
limit of their abilities they told you why. And presently 
when the 1907 board put on the purple, there was one 
among them. 

The cadaverous, pale-freckled face and tomato-soup-col- 
ored hair of that singular Junior who was to be the first 
American to win the Nobel Prize for literature could not 
be ignored then any more than now. "Harry" Lewis was as 
different from the correct young types around him as Sauk 
Center is from Tuxedo. He had none of their artificial con- 
straints and far more real dignity of nature. He stormed 
and he damned, but again he might roar you as gently as 
a sucking-dove. And his hates and his loves were genuine 
and never compromised by ulterior and clandestine desires, 
although there was nothing he would not do to assist fellow- 
sufferers among the rocks and briars of the lower slopes of 
the two-horned mountain. His classmates I believe had 
viewed him with alarm, had been cruel with respect to his 
irascibilities which were passionate, and had ignored his 
talents which were obvious to every "heeler" of the Lit. 
Our admiration, I feel sure, was not unpleasant to him 
and there was quite a group of us who instinctively endeav- 
ored to do him honor. This reflects some credit on us, for 
Harry did not belong to any society and never would, which 
does not add anything to the prestige of the classes of 1906 
and 1907. He was apart from that kind of thing, and in one 
way from the college, for he did not even live in it. He had 



YALE 2 

a room in a cheap boarding-house outside the pale of the 
university, where I perused a typed volume of his poetry 
four inches thick, and discussed with him the merits of an 
equally fat book by an author who never won the Nobel 
Prize. The unfortunate's name was Swinburne, to us at the 
time a figure who meant liberty and the casting-off of fetters. 

Harry was a scarlet thread in the drab of my Freshman 
year, and after I returned from my enforced stay abroad, 
in my Junior year. I never have had a better time with any 
man than when we sat over welsh-rarebits and beer at the 
Hof-Brau, and disposed of the past and the future with great 
impartiality and equal authority. Poetry was his love, and 
I am still astonished at the direction in which his fate took 
him. It was clear even then that he was a comer, but in 1905 
I should have predicted for him the lyric, perhaps the epic, 
but not the photographic. In a satire twenty years later I 
adjured him to return to his early altars. Furthermore I 
believe he will before he dies. He came into the world not 
to turn a candid camera on Babbitt, but to revel in some- 
thing as old as the Tale of Troy and as new as the aeroplane. 
If he finds it, he will create out of his unabated natural 
forces something that will force us to think at once of War 
and Peace and The Three Musqueteers. And his sunset will 
be as surprising to the world as his dawn was to me. 

I have a last vignette of him in New Haven. Harry in his 
Senior year, 1906-1907, had given up college in mid-term 
for the delights of Upton Sinclair's Utopian experiment, 
Helicon Hall. Strange as it may seem to Marxian youth, 
many of the staunchest reactionaries they know were ram- 
pant socialists then, a fact that should give Marxian youth 
pause. Upton Sinclair appointed Sinclair Lewis furnace-man 
in the New Jersey Utopia, which led Harry to form a low 
opinion of that belated Brook Farm. He returned disillu- 
sioned in the autumn of 1907 after the graduation of his 
class, to round out his degree and become once more the 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

delight of the slaves of the Lit. We had long walks and talks. 
And a strange fantasy of his about the sphinx became a 
symbol for me which has been dominant in my thought, 
if I may call it thought, these thirty stricken years. I was a 
candidate for the Lit (last place) and everything hung on 
whether or no one final poem were accepted before the 
election. Harry Lewis, my delightful roommate Harry Beers 
(also a candidate but a sure one), and I went down to read 
the bulletin of the chosen, which the Board would post in 
the window of the Lit office late that night. It was blowing 
a gale and black as pitch in the Berkeley Oval, and many 
lucifers went out before we were certain that "The Ballade 
of the Golden Horn'* was safely on the list. I have never 
known a moment of greater triumph, and no other Nobel 
Prizeman has struck so many matches in my behalf. 

Though an enormous and irreplaceable part, Harry Lewis 
was by no means the whole of existence in those pleasant 
years. Beers, with whom I roomed for two of them, was as 
interesting a man as one could hope to know. He was gentle 
and had inherited his father's fine, delicate, distinguished 
speech. He loved German literature and was always quoting 
Wilhelm Meister for his own purposes. My tastes have never 
dovetailed better with those of any man. To me he was a 
piece of pure good fortune. And his sympathy and sense of 
humor (how often those two go together!) made 342 White 
a pleasant place. 

Al Loomis I never saw much of except at the dinners of 
the "Pundits" in Senior year. But his was an immensely 
powerful mind, which has been conclusively demonstrated 
in two unrelated fields. He first attracted my attention when 
before my delighted eyes he proved on the principles of the 
Baconians, that a poem of Dunbar's, who died in 1519 had 
been written by Francis Bacon, who wasn't born till 1561. 
Since that singular performance he has found time to be a 
successful banker and a first-rate physicist, and by that I 

46 



YALE 2 

don't mean a bloody amateur attracted by the fairy-tales of 
science. 

I saw more of a most attractive Jew, named Robert Moses, 
who already had given striking proof of the courage by con- 
vention denied to his race and, by a convention as absurd, 
attributed to the Aryan. He was automatically excluded 
from the social privileges reserved for the inheritors of the 
Great Tradition. But he made himself a position of power 
in our little world, by the same methods of straightforward 
outspokenness that have made him a figure in the nation. I 
was touched and amused when a writer in the New Yorker 
a year or two ago described how Moses shocked front to 
front against Walter Camp, dictator of football, and de- 
feated him with great slaughter, to the- advantage of swim- 
ming. To an undergraduate, a Jew, the victory remained. 
It was as if Walt Disney had overthrown Hitler, which may 
happen yet. That the imbecile anti-semitism of half-grown 
boys should have cramped his form in any respect is no com- 
pliment to our collective intelligence. He of all men needs 
to worry least on the point, when twelve million call him 
blessed today. Is it too much to hope, with a recent writer 
in Harper's Magazine, that a hundred and twenty millions 
may do so presently? 

Wholly different but quite as exciting was Leonard Ken- 
nedy. The leit-motif of his powerful nature was "satiable 
curtiosity," which, if it be connected with a rational mind, 
is of all qualities most charming. There was nothing whose 
mystery was not interesting to him, even after he had plucked 
out the heart of it. It is no wonder to me that he was the 
first man to give an intelligent account of the half-mile-high 
cataracts of British Guiana, or that he tore down a moun- 
tain inside the city limits of Rio de Janeiro. The engineer, 
the furiously active reorganizer of countless ruined com- 
panies, never lost his passion for literature in all its forms 
and parts down to the very mechanics of prosody. And I 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

have discussed metrics with him in the "Down Town Club," 
while from adjoining tables ancestral voices prophesied ter- 
rible things about Cerro de Pasco and Great Northern Pre- 
ferred. He himself pointed out on that occasion, that such 
a subject had in all probability never been canvassed in 
those precincts before. Golf, the development of the over- 
sea airlines, trout-fishing, South American bonds, dog-breed- 
ing, first editions, there was nothing he was not mixed up in 
and could not be exciting about. I loved him for twenty 
years and it is worth while to possess his vivid and enter- 
taining memory. 

Their name is legion in my own and other classes. Francis 
Riggs who came through the Russian Revolution to be as- 
sassinated in Puerto Rico, Jim McConaughy now presiding 
to perfection over Wesleyan University, Kim Townsend, the 
only honest-to-God faun I ever knew, Tom Beer with the 
mind that glittered and penetrated till it hurt, Wayland 
Williams, poet, novelist, painter, and still to me most sym- 
pathetic of men, provided me sport-royal. I hope I gave it 
back in kind. 

Taking stock I find little to regret in comparison with 
what still rejoices me. But I think the regrets are worth 
mentioning. I am glad I wasted no time on economics which 
perpetually changes for the worse or on philosophy which 
never alters for the better. But I wish I had not dropped 
Latin and Greek at the end of Freshman year. I wish I had 
gotten over my prep-school antipathy to mathematics in 
time formally to cultivate the cross-grained muses. I wish 
I had got a reading knowledge of German, even if for all 
literary and scientific purposes it has since become a dead 
language. French I already had sufficiently, Italian I subse- 
quently obtained, but German in the same degree would 
have been a great addition to my pleasure. The boy of 
these times, parenthetically, should go all out on Russian, 

3> 48 



YALE 2 

which has got the future which German, through the folly 
of politicians, has definitely lost. 

Finally I regret, as an experience, though not as a piece 
of comedy, an extra-curricular item, namely, a love-affair 
into whose details it is not necessary to go, though it was 
clear from the first to the lady as to me that the situation 
was impossible. Very likely it did neither of us any perma- 
nent injury. It was virtuous past expression, and perhaps 
that was the trouble. It came to the end it deserved, after 
a series of emotional crises on my part and much considera- 
tion and kindness on hers. The worst you could say about 
it, is that situations which are fundamentally unreal, and 
which have no prospect of becoming factual are good things 
to avoid. And as between the sexes any situation that more 
or less ignores sexuality is a piffling situation. Plato be 
damned. Like Clive Newcome, I never saw a pretty woman 
yet without wanting to kiss her and I frequently have. And 
according to me that is the way to be. But to keep things 
on the spiritual plane is not only impossible but hateful 
hypocrisy. That was what I tried. And no wonder if I had 
my first nervous breakdown, when the affair blew up. 

Before that happened, my college career ended in what 
had to me all the earmarks of a blaze of glory. I was elected 
class-poet against a rival, whose defeat, rather than my tri- 
umph, was celebrated in every daily in America, because he 
was the son of one who had been vice-president of the re- 
public. It was my first taste of publicity. The notices of 
victory in a thousand papers, after a detailed account of my 
adversary's personality and general quality, wound up with 
this sentence: "The successful candidate was Leonard Bacon 
of Peace Dale, Rhode Island,'* which still describes me 
pretty well. 

Class day came, and I delivered not without applause that 
famous poem, which with the insolence of youth I had been 
so sure I should deliver that I began its composition months 

49 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

before I was chosen for the purpose. In the list of candidates 
for the baccalaureate in arts, arranged in order of merit, the 
university printed my name in the exact center of the not 
too intellectual class of 1909. And I went forth from the 
half-light of a world of learning and young mirth into the 
surrounding darkness of an America which seemed not to 
care particularly for poets, class or otherwise. 



V 



MOUNTAIN 



LIKE my career at St. George's, my career at Yale suffered 
an important interruption. I had not broadened in propor- 
tion to my height and was, I suppose, abominably scrawny. 
An amiable Boston specialist took the flattering position 
that this circumstance was due to a tubercular lesion in the 
apex of the left lung, though the fluoroscope reveals today 
no trace of any scar. I personally never believed it, and 
when he pronounced the dreadful judgment in his Marl- 
borough Street office, I wasn't even frightened. But my par- 
ents were, and instantly jerked me out of college, so that, 
as I should certainly then have put it, I "lost" my whole 
Sophomore year. Instead I was whisked abroad to a "lunger" 
station, not a formal sanitarium, in the Alps above Mon- 
treux, where I lived the hermetic life of the supposed suf- 
ferer for six months in my twentieth year. This is no cinch. 
Bed is not the place to hear distant dance music, even if 
one does not care a great deal for dancing. Nothing is gained 
as one sits, like a man in bonds, wrapped in fur coats and 
blankets, while the bobsledders, shouting for mere animal 
spirits, hurl past below one's balcony. 

Happily for me the school of thought which with a re- 
finement of cruelty forbade books to the sufferer, lest his 



mind and temperature be unsettled by unprofitable con- 
templation, was In fortunate eclipse. I did not have to en- 
dure the hellish emptiness and void which at one time were 
an essential part of the "cure/' On the contrary I sat a 
great part of every day on my balcony which faced the blue- 
white ice-walls of the Rochers de Naye, and the dizzy spike 
of the Dent du Jaman, and read and read. It was in some 
sort a listless performance, for part of it was intended to 
keep me abreast of my class four thousand miles away. I got 
through quantities of Racine and Corneille, Gil Bias de 
Santillane, damned well worth while too, if only for the 
episode of the Doctor Sangrado, monographs on Swiss his- 
tory, novels by Hugo, and the parochial poetry of the Lake 
School (of Geneva). The fat volume in which I fitst read of 

Un roi d*Jvetot 
Peu connu dans rttistoire 

did not fail to entertain me. But oh how I wish I had had 
a good go at the seventy volumes of Voltaire in that winter 
of my discontent. Instead I went all out on the English 
Pre-Raphaelites, and blessed the name of "the good Baron 
Tauchnitz," that true, delightful, and inexpensive friend 
of invalid and exile. 

Also I developed some of the usual interests of the pris- 
oner. I never made friends with the spider* But even with 
two feet of snow on the ground, birds did not desert Les 
Avants. The big black yellow-billed merle fed daily on the 
crumbs which I carefully distributed at tea-time on an iron 
balcony table. The tomtit was never absent from my board. 
And the chaffinch, most beautiful and tamest of European 
birds (in this instance the adjectives are not contradictory) 
visited me all afternoon. However affected it may appear to 
dwell on such circumstances, from them I have always de- 
rived indescribable satisfactions, A flock of magpies in flight, 
a humming-bird at rest, starlings, a distant globe of atoms 

52 < 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

now darkly visible, then, as they wheel wing-edge on, utterly 
vanished, move and touch me in ways I cannot express. Only 
yesterday a triangle of black-duck that flew down my trout- 
stream and were smitten with horror on discovering me in- 
terloping round a bend, gave me a vision of terror and 
beauty that no poet has so far got on paper. The little birds 
of the Alps did me no harm in that limited winter. 

I was not wholly confined. During a part of each day, I 
was permitted a sort of diluted exercise. Weather permit- 
ting, I walked daily to Cubly, where yet stood the ruins of 
a medieval watch-tower, whence, according to the local his- 
torians, horrified Vaudois had once watched the red turbans 
of Saracen raiders in the plain where the Rhone runs into 
the lake. I saw no Saracens, but I did see the massive 
bastions of the Chablais towering over the waters, blue or 
shark-tooth-colored, as the skies might be. Also the long 
slopes southward, terraced with tawny vines, were not hard 
to look at. But the snows come early at a thousand meters 
and presently they shut us in for as much as two weeks at 
a time. 

Foul weather under such circumstances was something 
not to forget. For half the people in the hotel (a sanitarium 
in plain clothes) carried their secret wounds. When they 
could no longer escape, the place became an epitome of 
doom and gloom. You could not forget why they had come 
there. And they gave up the effort. Superficially there wasn't 
anything striking about them except for their pathetic at- 
tempts to behave like people in normal health and for their 
persistent habit of stating that they were already much 
better. I knew in particular an Englishman named Sharp 
who was so much better on Friday that he was dead on 
Monday. And episodes of that description did not add any- 
thing to the general encouragement when the snow squalls 
howled round the machine-made cornices of the Hotel du 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Jaman. Not even Thomas Mann can tell me much about 
magic mountains. 

The little community, two hotels, ours and its more fash- 
ionable neighbor, were between them the whole Feast of 
Pentecost. Armenians and Russians with black beards and 
blouses, rubbed shoulders with Galician gentlemen, who 
put on dinner-coats for luncheon to the unconcealed and 
viperish horror of English sublieutenants, who had come 
for the Christmas skiing. One particular subaltern, who had 
looked his feelings at Central Europe's sartorial imbecility, 
made a sort of impression upon me, if only for his capacity 
to misunderstand other human beings. He was the superb 
quintessence of British dulness, personally ill-favored, and 
unnecessarily clumsy in his mind. I had enough sense to 
dislike him and I dare say he reciprocated. I don't even 
remember his name. But seven years later I saw his face 
again among a dozen other uniform pieces, just as he was 
when I had the misfortune to know him. With his com- 
peers he had got into the Illustrated London News, and the 
caption over the group was "Roll of Honor." Probably this 
brief and final publicity was due to some bonehead advance, 
as awkward as his skiing. But unlike Oscar Wilde, he did 
not die beneath his means. 

Pleasant things befell me in my exile. My delightful Aunt 
Caroline, then president of a great woman's college, arrived 
at Vevey, our point of contact with the world whose lungs 
were not under suspicion. She made things agreeable on 
principle, and in support of this policy she brought with her 
Miss Katharine Lee Bates, a lady who made a business of 
treating adolescents as if their opinions merited considera- 
tion. She carried her belief so far that when I had the 
temerity not to read La Nouvelle H&lo'i$e which she had 
given me, she was merely satisfactorily diverted. For this I 
cannot be sufficiently thankful. That lady had in her nature 
whatever Diotima of the Symposium had and even more. 

54 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

Her positive sympathy for the young of both sexes was a 
laissez passer to their confidence, and I respect it the more 
now, because in later years I have not always found it easy 
to feel it myself. Nothing at the time suggested to me that 
nearly thirty years later I should make the oration over a 
monument which academic piety set up in her honor in 
the Boston Fenway. No vulgar words of mine or anyone 
else could express her gentle dealing with a whole genera- 
tion. And I cannot overpraise her kindness to me in par- 
ticular. Under her roof I discovered and read everything 
that Yeats had so far consigned to print. And except for my 
father, she was the only person I knew who shared my irra- 
tional passion for William Morris. She never attempted to 
impose her tastes on others. And I was aware that in her 
presence I was at liberty to speak of what pleased me, well 
or ill chosen, as the spirit moved me, without penalty at- 
tached. All she desired was frankness, an art almost lost 
then, and wholly lost now, when young lions delivered to 
publicity, utter, under the impression that they are really 
coming clean, opinions not even they have ever believed. 

Her parting gift to me, when she and my aunt departed 
for Egypt, was a cheap edition of Shelley, which, accuracy 
compels me to admit, I hardly opened for a year and a half. 
I defend myself on the ground that I knew the lyrics already 
and that I perhaps foresaw that "The Revolt of Islam" 
would have indefensible longueurs. It was not till wholly 
restored in health and on an island in Lake Asquam with 
the west wind blowing that I almost accidentally opened 
that volume at "Prometheus Unbound/' For three days 
Harry Beers and I had existed, naked as jay-birds, on that 
island something that few people have ever done. In the 
silly spirit of the young literary animal I opened the book, 
and, I am glad to say, read like a drunkard for three hours, 
till my arms and legs were tingling from the impaired cir- 
culation produced by an unchanged attitude. I had read 

55 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

greater poems before, and I have read greater poems since, 
but that was the time and the place. The birches murmur- 
ing above me, the moss on which I lay, the great blast of 
warm wind, the clapping of the waves it drove against the 
boulders, the physical nakedness, the spiritual excitement 
of the noble poetry, persuaded me to a manner of thought 
which I do not regret to remember. Out of that poem I 
got some inkling of what the Hindus mean when they say 
a man is "twice born." And though never in my life have I 
written a poem explicitly correlated with that experience, 
since that moment I have never written one out of my 
entrails that was not connected with it at least by indirection. 
The thick green book "on grey paper with blunt type" has 
memorably affected an existence which till this writing at 
any rate, has given its beneficiary a kick. 

But this is getting ahead of events as they happened. There 
was too much tension for that hotel to become altogether a 
temple of fatal dulness. One noticed that the beautiful Miss 
St. George, always dressed in spotless white, appeared less 
and less in the lounge and not at all in the dining-room. 
The black-bearded Russian grew more and more like an 
El Greco martyr from week to week. The handsome Polish 
girl, who loved languages for their own beautiful sakes, was 
not getting better. On the other hand my friend the Swede, 
Bucht, was happily on the mend. Bucht was an acquisition. 
He had come down with the universal sickness during the 
mobilization of the Swedish army at the moment of the 
secession of Norway. No one has ever sufficiently praised 
old Oscar I, who refused to let his two peoples fight about 
one of his crowns. But Bucht was an actual casualty in a 
war that never was fought. He got to the Alps just in time, 
and, by the exercise of good Scandinavian sense, presently 
got on top of his trouble. He had been a privat-dozent at 
Upsala in mathematics and astronomy. And it was fun to 
be with a man who could get excited about the orbit of a 

56 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

comet. We had long and delightful talks then, and an elab- 
orate correspondence afterward. One queer experience I 
had with him. We parted in French in 1907, and our ways 
never crossed again but once in Goettingen in 1911, when 
we met in German. Few friendships have had to endure a 
complete change of language. I lost track of him during the 
war, and regret it. His delightful simplicity and an educa- 
tion which was to mine what mine was to a boot-black's, 
made me admire him. And I don't care a damn if, as was 
probably the case, he was one of the routine practitioners 
of his difficult science rather than an expander of its 
boundaries. 

The pet, the cynosure, the great man of the Hotel du 
Jaman, was, however, the General Baron Kirgener de 
Planta, who was there taking care of his wife and ailing 
daughter, and who was one of the nicest men I ever knew. 
There was a mystery about him too, which bothered better 
persons than I who finally solved it. He descended to Mon- 
treux daily, returning on the train, which, with the appalling 
regularity of the Swiss, arrived at 6:26 P.M. sharp. He would 
be wearing a tweed knickerbocker suit, a loden cloak, and 
a Tyrolese hat. Four minutes later, at 6:30 exactly, he would 
enter the dining-room in his "smoking" with no appearance 
of having achieved a miracle. Naturally invalids with noth- 
ing to do wondered how the devil it was done. One evening 
the general was telling with great energy some anecdote of 
old wars. He leaned forward and a gap appeared between 
his dress-vest and the edge of his shirt-front. In that gap 
there was nothing except an oatmeal colored crescent of 
woolen undershirt. The hero of Solferino and of Bourbaki's 
"snow march" wore that hateful article a "dickey" instead 
of a dress-shirt. Thus his miraculous celerity was explained. 
Be that as it may, his yarns were impayable, ranging from 
items about dances at the Tuileries to how MacMahon 
heard the firing and in defiance of orders marched toward 

57 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Magenta,* thus putting off Sedan eleven years. Or again 
how his orderly handed him a box of matches as the cavalry 
waited under fire at Villersexel, and when he turned around 
to give them to the man, "II n'avait plus de tte." Or yet 
again how his regiment in Bourbaki's horrible retreat had 
marched over a pass in the Jura at twenty-eight degrees 
below and escaped internment or capture, with the result 
that ten days later they were swopping long range shots 
with Kabyles in the Algerian Desert. The old man had 
more or less ended his military career as the innocent vil- 
lain of a great historic drama. Of this he told me no stories. 
He presided, I am perfectly certain, in complete ignorance 
of the intrigues behind the forged evidence, over the first 
court-martial of Dreyfus. I learned this much from that 
charming and courteous old man, that professional soldiers 
have the best manners in the world, as I subsequently dis- 
covered that pacifists in general have the worst. 

In my enforced idleness I became perhaps unreasonably 
curious about people around me. It was not unlike being 
at sea. And in my mild way I tried to identify species and 
imagine lives and motives, as Edmondo de Amicis did on 
his wonderful voyage to Buenos Aires. It is a delightful 
game which may be played anywhere and does no harm to 
anyone except occasionally to the practitioner. When one 
of his intuitions proves to be correct, he is too apt to for- 
get his failures. And that way madness lies, as I subsequently 
and bitterly discovered. In any case the habit of observing 
people as a sport grew upon me. It amused an invalid, sub- 
ject to many boredoms, and it certainly led to my witnessing 
an enigma, with which I still play in my mind without hope 
of a solution. At the neighboring hotel a strikingly pretty 
girl, who bore one of the great English names, was staying 
for the winter sports. I knew her slightly and she was just 
as nice as they can come in England, gentle and high-bred. 

* Or Solferino for aught I know. 

58 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

I admired her rather shiftlessly from the prison of my ill- 
ness, which I was apt to do with respect to every attractive 
girl at that time. Some errand took me to Vevey one day, a 
town which in my circumstances had for me all the excite- 
ment of a world capital. It can be imagined how I lingered 
in the solitary bookshop, where I bought my Tauchnitzes. 
On my return it was dusk and the little station and the 
platform at Chamby, where one changed for Les Avants, 
were jammed with coasters who were waiting for the train 
up the hill. From the inside of the station I observed my 
pretty English girl in conversation with the physically mag- 
nificent and extremely unpleasant-looking sous-chef -de-gar e, 
whose personal appearance might well have had some con- 
nection with the famous song about his superior. I won- 
dered listlessly why she should be talking with such a 
person, but fancied she was practising her French. This cer- 
tainly was not the explanation, for quite suddenly he seized 
her by the shoulders, bent her stiff as a ramrod thirty 
degrees out of the vertical, restored her to her erect posi- 
tion, and took his abhorrent hands off her. It was over be- 
fore one could think. He didn't kiss her. No one else saw. 
She made no sound of surprise or protest. And their conver- 
sation continued without further accident till the arrival of 
the train. What it was all about I cannot fathom. But it 
made me think then, as it makes me think now, of what 
Dickens said was the queerest sight he had seen in his 
prowls about London a woman in grande tenue throw- 
ing a rose from a window to a beggar crouched in the area 
below, to a beggar who instantly made off as soon as he 
caught the flower. I saw that pretty girl once or twice after- 
wards, but not being as brave as the Ronsard imagined by 
Browning, though at least as inquisitive, I never satisfied 
my curiosity. 

By Christmas I was well enough to go down for the holi- 
days in Geneva. The little bustling city was a grimmer place 

59 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

than the bright summer town I remembered eight years 
back. The skies were like greasy zinc, and the lake waves 
curled coldly under a perpetual black bise. But there were 
delightful bookshops, and the friends of niy father's boy- 
hood made things very pleasant for us. Geneva is an odd 
town governed by traditions as strange as, and very like, 
Boston's. To this day it is a real distinction to be a Burgher 
of the City as opposed to a mere Swiss citizen. And it is an 
unwritten but binding law that no one amounts to anything 
in the social life of the town, unless his ancestors came there 
with, or before, Theodore o Beza, Calvin's contemporary 
and biographer. Wit, learning, beauty, money, mean noth- 
ing against the defect of this necessity. Thus one eminent 
family distinguished for eight generations, whose forebears 
had been the intimates of Frederick the Great, of Voltaire, 
of Rousseau, were still in 1907 hardly qualified to attend 
the equivalents of a Cabot wedding or a Saltonstall funeral. 
The ancient houses paid strict attention to such details, but 
they were reasonably cordial to foreigners, as Bostonians 
may be to Philadelphians. 

In Geneva I made, under peculiar circumstances, the 
most peculiar friend I have ever had. As I entered the 
dining-room one evening I beheld a man engaged in what 
to me is the most enigmatic of amusements. Between mouth- 
fuls he was reading the score of an opera. A cuneiform 
tablet would have seemed more entertaining to a person of 
my limitations, and accordingly I paid some attention to his 
appearance. In the midst of the table d'h6te propriety of 
the meal, an old English clergyman, whose white hair and 
beard gave him the look of an incompetent minor prophet, 
went quite literally mad at an adjoining table. Leaping to 
his feet, he delivered a passionate but incoherent jeremiad 
to the appalled guests of the Grand Hotel des Bergues. The 
sad-faced woman, wife, sister, daughter, who was his keeper, 
pulled him down by the coat-tails, and he sank into a 

60 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

volcanic silence that had promise of future eruptions. The 
scene was the extreme limit of the pathetic and the ludi- 
crous. But the man with the opera score caught my eye at 
the high pitch of the excitement. Duly at the end of the 
meal he came over to our party and introduced himself to 
my father. So began an extraordinary part of my education. 
For reasons unnecessary to state, he shall be nameless, but 
he was in a great sense my teacher. And from that absurd 
origin, dated a long series of what still seem to me notable 
conversations and letters more notable still. 

The man with the opera score had been a journalist at 
home, but now hung loose upon society abroad. He was 
small, thin, white-skinned, and chetif, but he knew every- 
thing and everybody, and, as far as I was concerned, the 
mere fact that he existed was the essence of excitement and 
romance. For the moment to a boy of twenty he was the de- 
light of the intellect. Without ostentation, for fun, by 
chance, he knew the right book, the play to see, the music to 
hear. Never did a man understand better the distinction be- 
tween what is new and what appears to be so. For years his 
letters kept me abreast of odd tendencies in the European 
mind that I could never have found out for myself in any 
book. Sometimes he was penetrating, sometimes merely 
pleasantly peripheral. And I am glad I did not miss the de- 
lightful tangents on which he sent me off. Yet I think I knew 
from the first that there was something about the man with 
the opera score, and perhaps about me too, that of itself 
would make the relation transitory. 

The holidays ended and we returned to the snows. But 
there was promise now. The doctors were going to let me 
go before the Narcissus came. The rales in which I could 
never bring myself to believe were diminishing, if they ever 
existed. One wouldn't have to say "ninety-nine" and cough 
at command much longer, and Italy appeared in the offing 
as a present for a virtuous invalid. I was permitted to coast 

61 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

and even to ski a little. And the bobsledders no longer ap- 
peared hateful and superior animals, overprivileged with 
respect to health. The months went past slowly but they 
went. After one terrible last round of winter when the bliz- 
zard was continuous for two weeks, except for a break which 
lasted an hour, we went through the Gotthard into the 
delicious experience of the Italian spring. 

"Open my heart and you shall see, etc./' but hackneyed 
quotations aside, one ought to begin Italy as I began it, 
after six months' depressed confinement in a second-rate 
Alpine Hotel. It was good to be in Venice, but to be in 
Florence was very heaven. I ate with my eyes. If the Bel- 
linis in the Academia made me sick for pleasure, what emo- 
tions about the Benozzo Gozzoli Chapel in the Riccardi 
Palace? I still think the Emperor John Palaeologus and the 
spear-bearer behind the Magnifico two of the noblest things 
man ever made. But it wasn't only painting. It was every- 
thing else. It was the violet-veined obelisks supported on 
the backs of supremely competent bronze tortoises. It was 
Marzocco on the iron vane above the Guelphic battle- 
ments. It was the roaring, cursing election mob, that grew 
suddenly quiet when twenty-five lancers rode into the 
square. It was the poignant sympathy of the chamber-maid 
when the signorino ate too many little white figs. It was 
the strange food and the stranger bargaining and the gaiety 
of streets which invented gaiety. And my curse, like that of 
better men, is on the head of the nationalistic gangster who 
has turned the pleasantest race on the planet into the in- 
sincere, lacklustre, and unhappy accomplices of his gran- 
diosely unintelligent designs. 

The man with the opera score turned up in Florence to 
comment and expatiate, as always charmingly. But he was 
still more effective in Rome. He belonged to the type for 
whom what we call Classic has more meaning than the 
Medieval or the Romantic. For this I cannot be sufficiently 

62 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

grateful, because I belong, as I suppose, to the opposed 
camp. With Tacitus and Suetonius and Gibbon at his 
tongue's end he made Rome, "that bad arrangement in yel- 
low plaster/' a place of unimaginable vitality. In the ruined 
corridors of the Palatine, he compelled me to feel the dagger 
through my side, when he spoke of the conspiracy against 
Commodus. A year later I understood, because of him, 
Roman jokes in the notes to Gibbon. I had not yet read the 
great passage in the Autobiography about the monks chant- 
ing vespers in the temple of Jupiter. But the man with the 
opera score in our walks about the city fully prepared me 
to appreciate and taste "a stranger metamorphosis than any 
dreamed of by Ovid." How should I forget looking out 
from the higher ruins over the Forum blazing white in the 
sun, while he poured into my ear droll stories of the Late 
Republic or the chronique scandaleuse of the exarchate of 
Ravenna? In spite of his Classic faith he was interested in 
the change of things. And next to my father I owe to the 
man with the opera score my interest in what has been 
called "the edges of history," Hellenistic Greece, the be- 
ginnings of the medieval darkness, the Byzantine Empire, 
which curiously enough has protected me from boredom, 
when more sufficient men have turned first in despair and 
then with a sickly willingness to bridge. 

Anyhow one's first taste of Rome could not have had 
better auspices. He even exhibited to me the realities of the 
modern city so that the continuity of life that for three 
millennia has never ceased to cataract through those mean 
streets had meaning, vividness, and for all its bourgeois 
drabness, charm. I got from the man with the opera score 
some little sense of the difference between "blacks" and 
"whites," and why the opinions of a Prince Colonna were 
at variance with those of a free mason official in the admi- 
ralty. The types may be found in cities of the untrammeled 
West. And a member of the Union League Club is like one 

63 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

and Mr. Thomas Corcoran is like the other. No compliment 
to either is implied. Such divergencies in thought and feel- 
ing deserve more careful study than they are apt to get. If 
men thought of such matters at all, perhaps Italy would not 
be the intellectual hell-hole it is at present. And the United 
States would have more bread and fewer circuses. But at 
the moment, though I perceived some of the implications 
of the irrepressible conflict, I saw nothing fatally established 
by our stars. 

It was my first intention to let the man with the opera 
score come across my little stage only at the proper chron- 
ological moments. But it seems better to polish him off all 
at once in spite of the dangers incurred in leaping ahead of 
the narrative. For years his ideas affected my life as Father 
Holt's affected Henry Esmond's. But at length it was borne 
in upon me that I could not see eye to eye with him. I could 
give his serious notions such intellectual sympathy as I might 
be capable of, but I could not feel with him on various mat- 
ters. And for the first time in my life I permitted a relation- 
ship to break. It is a hateful thing to have to do and caused 
me pain. If it caused him some, I regret that aspect. Yet I 
know it was necessary for me to take the line I took. 

More than fifteen years later, I spoke with him for the 
last time in Florence. He was old, visibly sick, and, some- 
thing to me not to be explained, if one considered his for- 
mer views, violently addicted to what our ancestors called 
the errors of Rome. Personally I greatly prefer Rome to 
Canterbury, and both are better than Geneva, but it is also 
true that I detest the lot. Accordingly the stereotyped argu- 
ments which he brought to bear against what he imagined to 
be my Protestant prejudices left me pretty cold, and that last 
meeting had nothing in it to remind me of our happier and 
earlier feasts of reason. In fact I was bored, and we parted 
with that extreme politeness which is the characteristic of 
unsuccessful encounters. 

64 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

A few days later the dust and trampling of a multitude in 
the Via Bolognese excited my curiosity and I went to an 
upper window to see what it was all about. Below me a 
Corpus Domini procession, as long as a division and with 
more banners, was worming its way from Monte Morello 
back into the city. Almost directly under me in the "black 
blockade" marched the man with the opera score, hatless, 
and sharing his breviary with a fat bourgeois, doubtless of 
equal or greater faith. It made me shudder to think that that 
feeble body and sickly white bald head had been exposed to 
two hours of a blazing Florentine sun. Later I remembered 
Pascal's bitter sentence: "Saying your office will deaden your 
intellect and you will be happy." I intend no innuendo, 
when I say that I hope he found happiness in the stupefac- 
tion of prayer. The more I think of him the more I am 
grateful for the good he did me. But I am even more grate- 
ful that my notion of reality, whatever its deficiencies, was 
different from his, and, according to me, nearer, by plan- 
etary diameters, to life as it is. 

I did not foresee writing the preceding sentence, or this 
one for that matter, when we left Italy after two more de- 
lightful months than most people have ever had. Our luck 
continued for almost by art magic we found ourselves in 
Avignon. There Jeanne Jandrier, the daughter of Rou- 
manille the poet, had opened the doors sensible people like 
to have opened, and Cousin Tom Janvier was no handicap 
either, for he was actually a foreign member of the great 
literary society, the F^librige. The golden locust of the 
F&ibrige, designed, I believe, by Fabre and executed by 
some superlative goldsmith, is the only badge I have ever 
coveted. And nothing could have been more effectively sym- 
bolic of a new poetry, in a language that had literally risen 
from the dead, than the exquisite image of an insect, which 
after seventeen years in darkness suddenly fills every copse 
with its high-pitched and beautiful cry. 

3> 65 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Avignon, with its tremendous palaces and the glittering 
sunshine that somehow lets you know that it could be cold 
if it wanted to, was impressive enough. But Madame Rou- 
manille would not let it go at that and was responsible for 
an experience which has been enduring for me. She took us 
to Maillane to meet Frederic Mistral. 

Meeting men of distinction is often a dubious blessing 
for everyone concerned. The cynosure is apt to be bored or, 
still worse, embarrassed. And the hateful spirit of a press 
interview often broods over the encounter. I had read 
Mistral's autobiography, but his poetry was a closed book to 
a boy ignorant of Provencal And as we drove out between 
the improbable hill towns, I fear that I was inspired by 
much the same emotions as those which trouble an auto- 
graph-hunter, who knows that Gary Cooper or Greta Garbo 
may be run down between acts in the lobby of the Schubert. 
Not much better in any case. It was a long drive in the slow 
autos of the time, that hit twenty-five at their peril. But we 
got there at the hour when the English require tea, and were 
welcomed in a manner that made me alter some prejudices 
about the French. Presently a man with the manners and 
appearance of a General of Cavalry entered the room, and 
before he had said a word conveyed to my immature mind 
the sense that I was in the midst of an experience like en- 
countering Goethe. Whatever their elders may think, young 
people are quick about that sort of thing. And I do not flat- 
ter myself. It is simple truth that I knew I was in the pres- 
ence of a superlative example of what the gods can make, a 
great creative creature, in every sense himself a master- 
piece. Between him and the merely intelligent there was the 
difference between a line by Shakespeare and a line by Swin- 
burne. More simply put, there wasn't a trace of what is called 
the literary about him. The simplicity of his spirit, of his 
speech, and of his courtesy, requires no comment, least of 
all mine. His air, as he gave his arm to my beautiful mother 

66 



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 

to escort her into the dining-room, where the vin cuit of the 
country was an exciting substitute for the gross corrupting 
tea of the Anglo-Saxon hemisphere, gave one furiously to 
think. Only great men have great manners. And I can say as 
one who has spoken with both, that Frederic Mistral could 
make the late Earl of Balfour look like a diplomat. 

His talk was the perfection of theirs who do not assume. 
It never entered his head that he ought to say something to 
enhance a prestige that had been already deserved, and 
which he for one ignored completely. One could see with no 
effort whatever that Lamartine must have been glad to show 
him around the salons in Paris fifty years before. And I ven- 
ture to guess that Leconte de Lisle and Banville and even 
Baudelaire had winced slightly at beholding, for the first 
time, the genuine article. Anyhow in one lightning flash, 
such as even a boy may see, I learned the lesson, the beau- 
tiful lesson of the quintessence of the masculine, utterly 
separate from the effeminate, ignorant of the feeble epicene 
vulgarity, that for a whole generation for some reason had 
been to the fore in England, in France, in Italy, and in a 
republic across the Atlantic that had had a chance to know 
better. 

One line in his Isclo d'Or (the only one I remember) 

"Gran Souleu de la Prouvenco!" 

may perhaps shadow forth the emotion that he by indirec- 
tion excited in me better than anything I could myself man- 
ufacture. No man of those times, witch-ridden by the clever, 
cared to think of anything so obvious or so inevitable. 
"Great sun of Provence!" Like encountering Goethe, did I 
say? It was like knowing Chaucer, mirth, health, strength. 
Since that brief afternoon, whatever my own deficiencies, I 
have never been able to get up much sympathy for decadents, 
however greatly they stand in need of it. The other kind are 
much too exciting. I submit that to cross that path was a 

67 ; 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

good thing in the twentieth year. He was seventy then. But 
I discovered in five minutes that the genuine calm of a man 
who had made something was a great deal more interesting 
than the factitious hysteria of people who had not. 

I am sure that merely running across the bows of that 
beautiful figure was more important than several "lost" 
Sophomore years. 



VI 



MIRABILIS 



MY YEAR of wonders, not all pleasant ones, was the twelve- 
month between July, 1909, and July, 1910. As far as I was 
concerned there was hardly a moment when the unpredicta- 
ble was not confidently to be expected, in spite of several 
long bouts of lassitude and hope deferred. My habit of 
existence was violently altered three times. And actual ad- 
venture and, to me, startling experience crowded the days. 
Like most young Americans I had arrived at the crisis 
intrinsic in the possession of a sheepskin, without quite 
knowing a crisis was there. The formal process of education, 
however incomplete, stops as suddenly as if it had been 
killed. There is no longer a place for you in the cordial 
regions that were once so pleasant. The fact that one has 
given little thought to the emergency in no way improves 
the situation. In defense of myself, it is fair to say that my 
definite object in life was more definite than that of most 
young men. My ambition was crystal clear. I knew I wanted 
to write poetry and nothing but poetry. But in the light of 
the new situation, it was hard to find a warrant for such a 
hope in the record of achievement. Nor would the world see 

69 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

much in a few poems in the Lit, whose exquisite badness 
their author was beginning faintly and uncomfortably to 
perceive. I still think that one of those lonely and imperfect 
experiments had fire. But though fire is essential, it isn't 
enough. And yet it was beyond my powers to give up that 
ambition, which, if I had known, was its real justification. 
Nervously I cast about for devices to tide me over a time of 
bewilderment, and, like hundreds of other young men who 
don't know what to do, hit on a dubious plan of prolonging 
my studies in the graduate school. This had the merit of 
keeping up appearances, but in my case, as in many others, 
amounted to a flight from the enigma. In fact it is always a 
silly thing to do, unless one is absolutely burned up with 
interest in a definite problem that advanced studies can 
actually help to solve. For the moment, self-deluded, I per- 
suaded myself that I was in the proper state of mind. And 
I actually excogitated what still seems to me a not unrea- 
sonable task to work on, namely, a critical study of past and 
present Utopias. Books not without interest have been writ- 
ten on this subject, but there is still plenty of room at the 
top, and from the hand of someone who was honestly excited, 
something fruitful might have been expected. For a while I 
really believed in it, but the only real value of the scheme 
was that, for a few months, it decently covered the naked- 
ness of the future. And happily there was going to be a 
blessed interim, for before undertaking to write the last 
word on the history of political ideals, I was to go down 
with my father to visit his enterprises in Central America. 
It has been pointed out by innumerable moralists that 
men seldom know what they are doing. For all his acuteness 
of intellect, my father certainly did not when he went on 
that strange adventure, which for twenty years made havoc 
of his fine energies and repaid him only in dividends of that 
sort of excitement which one does not welcome. The effects 
remain to this day and no one can tell me anything about 

70 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

being land-poor. Twenty-five thousand hectares of howling 
wilderness modify one's views about great possessions. The 
one satisfaction I have derived from that monstrous tract is 
a distinction unique and my own. I venture to believe that 
no poet in history, good, bad, or indifferent, has ever owned 
as many boa-constrictors as I may be said at this writing to 
possess. 

The little company had started with a bang as a rubber 
plantation ancillary to a small factory in New York. The 
unpredictable always happens in the Tropics, and in our 
case it took the form of a tornado. Just as the trees arrived 
at maturity and were fit to be tapped, a storm no more than 
ten miles across came along and with almost personal ma- 
lignity broke every tree short off three feet from the ground. 
Unmolested they would have recovered, but between Cancer 
and Capricorn nothing that is injured is unmolested. The 
lovely tattacu, the moon-flower of Californian gardens, did 
the plantation's business. The huge carpet of irresistible 
vines studded with purple cups overwhelmed our unhappy 
stumps which could not thrust up a spike of leaf from under 
the smothering strangling creepers. One could hardly blame 
our directors for failing to admire as beautiful a sight as eye 
ever saw. It was to deal with this emergency that my father, 
rich in devices, revisited that luckless coast. 

I submit that to get one's glimpse of the Tropics at 
twenty-two with such a companion is a thing beyond estima- 
tion. Every facet of the experience gleams for me still with 
no ordinary light. New Orleans, least American of our cities, 
fascinated me, as it has fascinated everyone (for choice Wil- 
liam McFee), who has ever been there. The wet heat, the 
food seasoned with invisible fire, Stag gin-fizzes, little French 
bookstores in whose show-windows Parisian successes of ten 
years before grew dingy under the same dust that sullied the 
complete works of St. Thomas Aquinas, the quadruple roar 
of Canal Street, sunset over Lake Ponchartrain, and the 

71 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

rampart, mobile but perpetual, of vertical white cloud that 
surrounds the city, all these were a sort o introduction to a 
world even less familiar. 

Leaving that city of pleasant manners and a French wholly 
incomprehensible, on a steamer of nine hundred tons, was 
like going to sea in a Kipling story. The little Norwegian 
tramp, leased for two years to a fly-by-night banana com- 
pany and so pretending to be an honest ship with a house 
flag and marriage lines, was a ringer for the Rathmines of 
that splendid fantasy, "A Matter of Fact/' Officered and 
manned by one Stavanger family, the Imperator had no man 
in her crew farther off in blood from the captain than 
nephew or cousin. This custom it appears was common in 
Scandinavian ships at the time and explains why they had 
the best pickings in the Caribbean. I liked that gang of 
square-heads. They had been in every honest-to-God port in 
the world and some not so honest. And they now were trans- 
porting us to one of the latter category. 

The voyage down to Bluefields through the Yucatan 
Passage was uncomfortable, but mitigated by other consid- 
erations. I learned to ignore cockroaches which scuttled 
deep into the berth when one turned back the sheet, and, as 
the steward said, did not bite but only tickled. The cramped 
quarters and detestable food were literally forgotten when 
one looked at 

Flying fish about our bows, 
Flying sea-fire in our wake. 

And the brilliant breakers, green shoal water, and blue- 
purple deep, off Cape Antonio were beauty memorable as 
pain. 

There is more than a little truth in the commonplace that 
one describes best what one has not seen. The passages in 
which Charles Kingsley, with his Schomburgk at his elbow, 
hit off the imagined forests of the Venezuela Coast and the 

72 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

Orinoco, are miracles of veracity because they are imagined. 
Bram Stoker was once complimented on the local color in 
Dracula. Venice was the nearest to Hungary that he ever 
got. I myself have heard pleasant things said about the 
realistic background of a tale laid in the Orient, by veterans 
of Mesopotamia and explorers of the Pamir. All of which is 
intended as an alibi, in case I should forget myself and 
attempt to render what these eyes saw. The reader has been 
honorably warned. 

After three days of that indescribable sea we came up to 
Cape Gracias a Dios, Columbus' first landfall on the terra 
firma, and anchored in the spearhead of mud at the mouth 
of the dirty Wanks River to discharge some of our cargo. 
Pitpans, dugouts of mahogany sometimes forty feet long, 
came alongside, and it was hard to believe that the low-type 
Mongols who paddled them were Indians. Cape Gracias was, 
is, and always will be a poor preface to the South. The low 
shores, the mangroves, the unhealed look of the mud banks 
that seem to need a scab which never forms, the corrugated 
iron warehouses, even the life of the polluted sea which took 
the form of the shovel-nosed shark, a creature like a stream- 
lined slop-jar, all these details made up a picture of the 
essence of natural and acquired meanness. I never was glad- 
der than when anchors were aweigh and we moved on clean 
and beautiful waters. As if to indemnify us for that stinking 
interlude, the gods put on a sunset that night like a dagger 
dance of fire, which of course vanished almost "as quickly as 
the color dies from the side of a captured salmon." Coleridge 
never visited those latitudes, and his famous description is 
a glorious example of the advantage of not having seen a 
thing, as also of the disadvantage. For not even Coleridge in 
his annus mirabilis imagined such tremendous effects as the 
turreted sunsets of the tropics, where, at least in my experi- 
ence, the dark does not come at one stride. Instead there is 
a gorgeous brief interval of castellated fires on the skyscraper 

73 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

clouds, and you are left mourning. That particular display 
on the night before we made Bluefields got after a fashion 
into a poem of mine fourteen years later, and, whether or 
no the account of it strikes home to the reader, what called 
it forth has for me such permanence as is possible in indi- 
vidual existence. Also there was a strange sequel, for no 
sooner had full darkness taken hold than the sea was alive 
with phosphorescence, as if comets had been drowned all 
over it, or Berenice were drawing her celestial hair through 
the dark waters. 

Late next afternoon we stole across the bar at the mouth 
of Bluefields lagoon and disembarked at the Bluff whence 
we were to go by motor-boat to a mean city. What with 
customs and medical inspection we strangled a couple of 
hours on the dilapidated dock, where a company of a bare- 
footed army were drilling dejectedly and in a manner that 
convinced me that not one of them had seen a Mauser rifle 
before. If I had understood, it was a portent. As darkness 
fell our launch sputtered and gasped across the lagoon 
toward the lights of Bluefields. While we were yet hundreds 
of yards away I could hear the air shake with the roar of 
approaching or departing electric trains. The racket was like 
being in a subway. It was deafening by the time we reached 
the dock. And I found it hard to believe that that over- 
whelming metallic clamor was produced by tiny creatures a 
couple of inches long, clinging with prehensile toes to every 
cornice and bough. One could not fail to remember 

The still lagoon and the moon beyond, 
And the tree-toad chorus drowning all, 
And the lisp of the split banana-frond 
That sang us to sleep when we were small. 

There are better hotels than "El Tropical." But four days 
on the Imperator do not make a man exigent. I slept as 
Saturn's steadfast shade sleeps on his luminous ring, 

74 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

We were up before dawn to visit the plantation eighteen 
miles away among the lagoons of the Escondido. And that 
was the first rapture, and as fine and careless as need be. The 
launch waited for us in the mist by a warehouse whose piles 
were sheathed in brass against the teredo. We crossed the 
lagoon with the skipjacks scaling out of the water at our 
prow like thrown playing-cards, from mere excitement or 
because the big gars were after them. Suddenly in the twin- 
kling of an eye we were in narrow channels. The sun rose 
and his earliest red fires touched a clump of great trees, 
which instantly were transformed into five one hundred and 
fifty foot sand-violets. The metaphor is hardly fanciful, for 
the sallow trunk of the ibo has the anemic tintless look of a 
violet stem, and the great crown of petals, thirty yards in 
diameter, is almost exactly the color of the flowers that grow 
in New England sand-barrens and railway-cuts. One might 
have compared their huge mass to a flowery Santa Sophia or 
Taj. They were fully as big and much more glorious. And 
I suppose the ibo-tree is the largest living thing in the world 
that is beautiful for radiant color. There was not a green 
leaf, only the unbroken cloud of soft mauve, whose outlines 
had a curve as successful as the ribs of Brunelleschi's dome, 
the whole strangely emphasized by the red sunrise, as colors 
in a laboratory are emphasized by the mysterious lamps of 
the physicist. 

As we went on the channel narrowed. The bush rose on 
either hand, a solid green wall thirty feet high. Few inches of 
it were dull. Kingsley speaks somewhere of a single tree in 
Venezuela "with more life in it than an acre of English 
ground." One felt breath and pulsation behind every leaf. 
And color was hot against your eyes. The flora maria let fall 
its golden veil, as wild azalea does over the banks of a South 
County trout-stream. Red orchids a foot across gleamed like 
stop-lights in the crotch of a tree. Alligators floated in the 
wider bayous. And I beheld alive and free wholly improba- 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ble toucans against the sky on a high bough, that opened 
and shut beaks almost as long as their bodies, with a noise 
between the clang of a safe-door and the screech of un- 
greased hinges. From the lower limbs of a ceiba-tree in an 
abandoned potrero hung innumerable gray stockings, nests 
of the bellbird, image of the orchard oriole, but as big as a 
pheasant. And creatures coal-black and scarlet, or blue and 
crimson, or green as jealousy, might flutter before you at 
every turn, while overhead circled the magnificent white 
snakehawks, birds so convinced of the virtue of personal 
privacy that I never saw one at a range closer than a hun- 
dred yards. Those great things still seem to me the epitome 
of beauty and dignity, and they are what eagles would be, 
if eagles had aesthetic sense or nobility of nature. 

Horses awaited us at a pier thrust out from the devouring 
bush, which gave me a better idea of how man's work decays 
than any structure made with hands I had yet seen. Thence 
we rode up a trail of squashy mud between ramparts of bush 
yet higher than we had discovered along the Escondido. On 
the east coast of Nicaragua a necessary distinction is drawn 
between 'low bush" which is thirty feet high, and "high 
bush" which is not less than sixty. They are about equally 
impervious. I know from experience that Br'er Rabbit's 
briar-patch is a royal road compared with the least thicket 
of the Nicaraguan east coast. And to this day I look with 
contempt on the green thorn of the Queen's River, which is 
the terror of effeminate fly-casters from the decadent reaches 
of the Beaverkill. The heat-stimulated barbed-wire vegeta- 
tion of those tropic flats is something at which to shudder. 
Had we desired to leave the trail, we could not have made 
a hundred feet in an hour without machetes, and hardly 
more with the cold iron in our hands. In the midst of that 
wilderness one had to stick to the worn groove like any 
clerk in Maiden Lane. And after fifteen minutes in the 
desolation, one already felt cribbed, cabined, and confined, 

76 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

condemned to a track. Presently I felt my tick-eaten plug's 
off forefoot give under both of us. I looked down. A red 
mouth, wide open, the jaws three inches long, was gnawing 
awkwardly at my beast's pastern. It was a land-alligator, on 
which the horse had casually trodden in the mud. The 
scarlet mouth of the poor creature, twisting in agony under 
the weight, was like a symbol of Central America, helpless 
under the burden of changes which it neither desired nor 
could combat. Anywhere else in the world that wretched 
nag would have jumped sky-high, for it is the nature of 
horses to hate stepping on anything living, but here it ap- 
peared stepping on things was a commonplace. Four or five 
hundred yards farther on, our guide suddenly reined in and 
said: "That's nice, isn't it?" Before us five or six banana 
trees, last relic of a dead plantation, crowned a hillock. A 
single frond of one of them was depressed sidewise from 
what even I would have known to be its normal angle into 
a position close to the trail. "Hope we won't be riding by 
when that comes down," said the guide. The branch of the 
great plantain was visibly strained to breaking-point by the 
weight of a mud-wasp's nest nearly four feet long, quite a 
foot wide, and almost as thick. With my own eyes I saw the 
three-inch hornets entering and departing from their pre- 
carious palace every second, while we plodded past. The 
man on horseback who by ill luck should be where we were, 
when that imminent collapse took place, would not last a 
second longer than he would in front of a Lewis gun. I saw 
and I understood that the policy of King Agag, who walked 
delicately, might be of no more use in this land than it was 
to Agag. It ought to be noticed that there is no bright face 
to danger in Nicaragua, whose specialty it is to give no 
warning. 

From the crest of a low hill we saw an immense clearing 
walled by great trees, and in the midst of it a group of what 
had once been neat buildings. It had hardly seemed worth 

77 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

while to keep them up since the tornado had passed over 
our hope. But they were home to my father and me for the 
rest of the summer, and we extemporized a mad sort of life 
in them, full of surprises, and diverting or alarming as the 
case might be. Thus, for instance, after a hard morning's 
walk of four or five miles at a temperature of 96 degrees 
Fahrenheit, also having been scared out of ten years' growth 
when a large snake, by all the laws of probability a fer-de- 
lance, ran over your instep with enough deliberation for 
you to feel the weight, it was not unnatural to follow the 
custom of the country and take a siesta after luncheon. A 
yell like that once uttered by the old monk of Siberia shat- 
tered the soft warm calm. Snatching a rifle from the wall, 
one leaped out of one's skin, to discover Bean, once a New 
Hampshire farmer and now a nervous wreck as a result of 
coming face to face with a portentous but perfectly harmless 
boa only twenty feet long. I cannot and shall not forget that 
Yankee's ashen-faced horror. It was the first time I had seen 
naked fear complicated with supreme disgust, which I be- 
lieve to be a characteristic experience of persons who for 
one reason or another happen to live in what are called the 
Tropics. I certainly felt it many times myself. And I think 
it is fair to ask which is predominant in those lands, beauty 
or horror. A foot or two below the flower that filled your 
soul with grace and unspeakable color, you may see the 
ghastliness of a toad a foot across, engaged in swallowing 
with dreadful ingurgitation another almost as big as him- 
self. That particular spectacle, accidentally discovered by 
lantern-light, impressed itself on my mind as the essence of 
what I should prefer not to see. The disquieting, slow- 
motion, reptilian meal, ugliness devouring ugliness, trou- 
bled me for days afterwards. And when I read the Divine 
Comedy, and, in the twenty-fourth canto of the Inferno, 
stumbled on what happened to Vanno Fucci, stricken by his 
fellow-serpent, I remembered disgusting analogies. Such 

78 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

things, trivial as they may appear, have a way of not re- 
treating from one's nightmares. It would be all right with 
me never to have imagined such a sight, let alone to have 
seen it. 

On an adjoining plantation, as down-at-heel and ruinous 
as our own, there was a gross Canadian Boer War veteran, 
who was always talking of the Paardeberg dinner in To- 
ronto, and was obviously in Nicaragua because his people 
couldn't stand him in Ontario. It was hard to take him on 
the Mosquito Coast, in spite of his yarns about the fifteen- 
hundred-mile ride in pursuit of De Wet who got away. But 
he did organize a tapir-hunt for which I have reason to be 
grateful. The tapir is a mild pachyderm, perfectly harmless 
and inoffensive, but he weighs up to nine hundred pounds, 
and properly wounded can get through undergrowth with 
sufficient velocity to trample you effectively before you can 
dodge. I was provided with a guide and a thirty-twenty rifle, 
about as useless a weapon against our destined quarry, whose 
hide is two inches thick, as could be imagined by an expert 
on ballistics. But that bootless chase had something great in 
it, for I had the opportunity, denied to most, of actually 
encountering and making friends with Mowgli, and, if it 
comes to that, Candide and the Ingenu. The creature who 
led me through the bush for an entire morning proved to 
be natural man, ignorant of complexes and unacquainted 
with taboos. He was as uninstructed and "as decent as a nice 
dog." The son of a cashiered English naval officer, he and 
his younger brother had been abandoned in the Escondido 
bush by a man who had once held the King's commission. 
Their sole possessions were a wrecked plantation house, a 
couple of machetes, a smooth-bore muzzle-loader, and, if I 
remember, a copy of the Three Musqueteers, which by some 
miracle they were able to read. They were as diffident as 
woodchucks, and as responsive to the faintest courtesy or 
kindness as gentle creatures ordinarily are. Philip's eyes had 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the alert but confiding look of an attractive animal, and one 
could not help liking him, even though he had to be told 
that certain necessary acts were not performed when women 
were present. He was profoundly grateful for the informa- 
tion. To be guided by such a person through as wild woods 
as there are on the planet, was like being taken through the 
Louvre by Rodin. Clumsily I followed him as he dodged 
around impassable barriers of plantain and briar, till pres- 
ently we came into a region that looked like Gustav Dora's 
illustrations to Atala. In those cathedral aisles from whose 
cornices hung hundred-foot liana-cables, one could walk 
erect through the shadows in the very heart of the forest. 
The hackneyed metaphor is not idle, for it really felt like 
slipping through a vast ventricular passage in an enormous 
living cardiac structure. It was some 96 degrees in that 
humid Broceliande and we marched in it for miles. I felt 
pretty well pumped, and in no humor for what struck me as 
ill-considered not to say barbarous irony, when Philip asked 
me if I was thirsty. I replied bitterly that I was and be 
damned to him. Without a word he clove an inch-thick 
liana, whence flowed as from a tap, water as warm as blood 
but at that moment delicious beyond all liquors. He was 
careful to show me the pith of that strange vine, because 
there is another liana in those woods whence the inexperi- 
enced from time to time drink their last. We found no tapir. 
It was much better to discover Philip, familiar of the forest. 
He knew it as a cop or a newsboy knows his beat. Here he 
had seen a black panther. There he had killed an eighteen- 
foot boa. "How?" I asked. "Went up to him and cut his head 
off." "Weren't you afraid?" "No, it's the little snakes I'm 
afraid of." Philip was literally what the German Romantics 
called a schone seele. And I wish that I had not, through a 
natural but inexcusable error, lost track of him. When I last 
heard from Mowgli-l'Ingenu twenty-eight years ago, he was 
working in Detroit for Henry Ford. Did he disappear into 

80 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

that remarkable army of motor-mechanics who keep Amer- 
ica moving toward what? Or is he the executive head of a 
department, who, looking up from a pile of heavy-dope cor- 
respondence, lets his mind wander to lost lagoons and for- 
lorn jungles? In either case he would know aspects of exist- 
ence unfamiliar to his associates. I celebrated him in a poem, 
to which no one paid attention, but which, on his account, 
means more to me than it could to any reader. 

Where the lobster-clawed fronds of the great plantains flush, 
Trots little brown Philip, my Pan of the Bush, 
Where the tattacu wreathes, where the ibo-petals falL 

Everyone who has ever lived in Bush is aware of the 
strange psychological effects which are directly caused by 
the monstrous overwhelming life about one. The column of 
marching ants, a huge veil of black chantilly lace darkening 
the ground, the tarantula as big as a kitten descending a 
cane with hateful deliberation, the great quash dashing 
under your horse's nose with the worst possible effect on your 
mount's already troubled state of mind, the bloated ticks in 
that same horse's ears, and the turkey buzzards literally 
"gorged till they could not fly" on the remains of one of our 
steers, were characteristic notes in a most undomestic sym- 
phony. But apart from all this novelty of outer experience, 
with its corresponding inner interest or disgust, Nicaragua 
provided me with the excitement of political tension and 
impending change. Every week when I went down to Blue- 
fields over Sunday I saw, or rather felt, how the tide was 
setting. American warships hovered off the coast and their 
crews came ashore to play baseball with the natives. The 
little city was seething with rumor. And there wasn't a half- 
breed child who did not know that Estrada the Governor 
was merely waiting for the moment to revolt from the hate- 
ful dictator Zelaya. That brute could teach Stalin some- 
thing, for he had invented cayenne pepper injections to 

81 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

facilitate the collection of taxes. Arms were being run in, 
I gathered. And conspiratorial groups looked professionally 
mysterious in the bar of "El Tropical/' where Lacy, a lin- 
guistic genius with curly mustaches, "dispensed cocktails in 
six languages" to the Richard Harding Davis CX Henry 
multitude of camp-followers of fortune. Nearly every man in 
the room had O. Henry's reason to approve of Nicaragua's 
historic aversion to extradition treaties. 

I valued Lacy, because of his yarns about sixty-foot ana- 
condas in Amazonia and the dubious heroisms of the Battle 
of Caledonia Bridge. But it took more than his free-hand 
revisions of fact to dissipate the boredom of a town where 
something was supposed to happen but never did, which is 
the formula for perfect ennui. I discovered alleviations. 
There was an interesting and philosophical doctor, in whose 
cool rooms I read a great part of Calmette's remarkable 
work on snakes and their venom, a subject of burning prac- 
tical interest. An amiable and cultivated Castilian from the 
interior, then a clerk in a warehouse, asked me many ques- 
tions concerning the history and psychology of the Colossus 
of the North. I hope he didn't take too much stock in my 
answers, for I am sure that my imaginative development of 
the American scene would hardly serve the purpose of a man 
who three years later was President of his country. He must 
have been in the very heart of the conspiracy whose rumor 
troubled the barrooms. 

As if to keep the political balance even, I met one of the 
loathesome dictator's fifty loathesome sons, easily the most 
unattractive mongrel I have ever sat in the same room with. 
The gross-minded, mahogany-colored toad of a man was 
married to an American girl, visibly no great shakes herself, 
and quite as visibly in mortal terror of him. She was a real 
object of pity. At the moment her husband, prince of the 
worst blood in history, was threatening to be ambassador to 
Great Britain, a humiliation spared to the Court of St. 

82 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

James when the Revolution burst like the boil it was. I sup- 
pose young Zelaya was merely a moron. And it is fair to 
admit that he was a musical virtuoso. But the man who 
should have gone ambassador to London did not "go good" 
at the piano on the Keith-Orpheum circuit. A year later I 
saw posters announcing him on hoardings in San Francisco, 
but did not look him up, not feeling it necessary to com- 
miserate with fallen greatness so hateful in its nature. 

September came, the behavior of the Revolution seemed 
to be modeled on that of Lancelot as described by the Lady 
of Shalott, and the maw of the Yale Graduate School gaped 
for me. I departed from the scrawny, tin-roofed town, with 
my head full of images I never have lost, in search of others 
I never could find. 



My connection with the Yale Graduate School reminds 
me of Balfour's stricture on the story of mankind: "A brief 
and discreditable episode in the history of a minor planet/* 
Whatever interest I may initially have felt in the biology 
and ecology of Utopias had vanished in the burning bush of 
the Escondido, between the fiery flowers and the birds more 
fiery still. Languidly I turned the pages of Plato, More, 
Hobbes, Bacon, Campanella, Harrington, Fourier, and 
Cabet, but the original glamour was shrunken to the ex- 
iguous and futile notes for a thesis, in which my heart no 
longer was. Professor Hocking, whose course in "Theories 
of the State" I had entered because I had foreseen he would 
anatomize my subject, was unable, for all his brilliance and 
charm, to make me like anything connected with such mat- 
ters except him. The myriad-minded Charles Bennett him- 
self could not interrupt intellectually my hibernation. Me- 
chanically I leafed over the documents and more and more 
found myself dissipating mildly at Mory's and generally 

83 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

avoiding anything that looked like mental exercise or dis- 
cipline. Given such an attitude nothing could be very im- 
portant and I drifted into a windless sea. 

Part of my lassitude may have been due to that unhappy 
relation of which I have spoken, a relation whose past had 
been hard sledding, whose present was impossible, and 
which could have no future. But I think most of it was 
caused by mere cussedness and bewilderment. I was not 
wholly inactive, for I got together some of my verses in a 
little volume, thank God never openly published, and 
whose appearance, no matter how privately printed, I should 
now deplore, were it not that it changed my fate in a manner 
none could have predicted, and I should be the last to regret. 

The book, which I called The Scrannel Pipe was a mix- 
ture of imitativeness, pedantry, and glibness. The food it 
had fed on was miscellaneous literature rather than the 
actuality and imagination that make the body and bone of 
poetry. For some reason I have always had a special, almost 
magnetic, inclination toward eastern Europe and the Near 
East, ever since Longfellow's "Scanderbeg" set up some in- 
duced excitement in the mind of a boy of eleven. That 
interest was given room and verge enough in that first thin 
volume. Whatever I had found in Gibbon, Finlay, Diehl, 
and the brilliant, journalese, Byzantine romances of Paul 
Adam came home to roost with a vengeance. And this ac- 
counts for, but hardly excuses, poems about Leo the Isaurian 
and Heraclius the Great. That I should fail to put flesh 
back on those dry-bones of Lower-Empire history is not 
surprising. But I am not ashamed of the boyish emotion 
that got canalized in that unpromising system of Levantine 
ditches. There was something real behind it, even if not one 
reader in a hundred (if there were a hundred) knew, as I 
knew, why there was some point when Nicephorus I at the 
moment of his execution made an ironic remark to the 
spirit of the Empress Irene. It takes one a long time to dis- 

84 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

cover that people neither know nor care what you are talk- 
ing about. But I consider that I was an unlucky child to 
have worked my way into a region where I was bound to 
be lonely and where my epitaph could easily have been: 

"Mort pour I' empire romaine, la decadence!' 

A quite unforeseen decadence came with the rapidity and 
unexpectedness of a car-collision. One great cause of brain- 
fag is underwork. And toward the end of 1909, I put on a 
first-rate imitation of a nervous breakdown. Mild irregu- 
larity, a little too much alcohol, a little too much disillusion 
and disappointment, a sick fore-knowledge that what I 
might have to say about Utopias was unlikely to rustle any 
Volscian in any Corioli, combined to produce the dreadful 
"neck-prickling" sense of fatigue and incapacity for any- 
thing, that Kipling has more than once described with the 
pathos of those who know. To this day I remember the fear 
and horror I felt when it dawned on me that no effort of my 
will could enable me to extract the not too difficult meaning 
from the sprawling sentences of Harrington's Oceana. At 
this moment I hate that wholly innocent and completely 
unimportant work. Flight was the only hope. A week or two 
later I descended from a transcontinental express at Big 
Timber in Montana, to see if I could pull myself together as 
chore-boy on a ranch twenty miles from a railway. 

3 

It was the end of January when I arrived, in the midst of 
one of those pulsations of unexpected warmth which are 
characteristic of winter in the Northwest. There was no 
snow whatever except on the higher peaks. The plain was 
the color of the Assyrian Lion's hide, and the mountains, 
bating their blinding summits, were cobalt or turquoise, 
depending on light and distance. Hugeness and high visi- 

85 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

bility were and are main characteristics of that land. And 
each emphasized the other. To detect a man three stricken 
miles away with the naked eye makes anyone who has lived 
in the vaporous atmosphere of misty New England coasts 
feel almost guilty, as if of spying. For all the enormous 
emptiness of the plain it is as if there were no privacy. And 
I am quite certain that I was once caught red-handed, or 
better red-armed, by interested persons at farther than a 
rifle shot, locked in a close embrace with a young lady. In 
our innocence we had believed ourselves quite safe from 
prying eyes. It is almost shocking to discover that a tree one 
proposed as the goal of a half-hour walk is ten miles away. 
And the ineffable slowness of progress toward the enormous 
horizons enlarged the distances. Five miles an hour when 
you have twenty-five miles to go, uphill if you knew it, 
makes one feel weak and snailish. Nor had the automobile 
yet thrust into the country of the saddle and the spur. But 
like Nicaragua it was a land to eat with your eyes. The 
wind-eroded crags, like stone lace-work in flamboyant 
churches, the yard-high curlews walking in the wild hay, the 
coyote watching us with interest but discretion, a virtuoso 
of a sunset behind the snowflags of the Crazy Mountains, 
whose foothills were "like the paws of sphinxes" at the door 
of the ranch, and Comet A 1910, a golden feather in the 
western sky, have not left me unmindful. 

Harry Hart, my employer-host, always unfailingly kind to 
me, together with his brother Jack, ran five hundred red 
steers on three thousand acres of flat land and butte, with 
great mountains on three sides and a wine-dark sea of 
purple-shadowed bad lands on the fourth. The brothers 
were English and had come into the country thirty years 
before with nothing but fine natures and that disposition to 
put one's back into it, which seems increasingly outside of 
contemporary theories of conduct. Two better fellows could 
not be. I was immediately put to work very hard with 

86 



ANNUS MIRABIUS 

beneficial effects, which were visible almost at once. Inci- 
dentally three days after my arrival, Harry hurt himself 
badly in a fall, with the result that for six weeks I knew 
what it meant to bear burdens in a house without running 
water. One's views of coal, kerosene, firewood and water- 
pails in general depend on whether one has to carry them 
or no. I hope my servants know that I know. By nightfall 
mere physical fatigue had reduced me to a state which I can 
recommend on therapeutic grounds, but which no one can 
wholly enjoy. But I forgot entirely the weariness which had 
troubled my mind so called, because of the mere gravita- 
tional drag on my loins and hams. I hold no brief for the 
unnecessary expenditure of elbow-grease. And I have no 
doubt that a little thought would have diminished our 
sweat. But there was no time for new devices, not with a 
blizzard blowing straight lines of ice into one's face, as one 
staggered across the corral to feed the horses in "the am- 
moniated dark" of the stable, or to get in enough wood and 
coal to fortify the cabin against the malignity of the in- 
human cold. For cold it could be, and the softly reared 
should once in a way learn what it feels like when the sweat 
freezes, and icicles form at the nostrils. 

I do not wish to convey that it was all like that. As I have 
said before, there is a strange pulsation in Montana weather. 
After a breathless struggle not to die of the mere agony for 
a week or more, when the wicked atmosphere clenched you 
in its fist, there would come a still morning with a high, 
grey, unpromising sky. Harry at the cabin door would 
squint at the somber clouds and say: "It's chinooking." In 
another hour the thermometer would have risen from below 
zero to nearly fifty, and the snow by sundown would be 
whipped off like a table-cloth. Blue pools lay in every de- 
pression of the plain. And the white jackrabbits, unaware 
that they were now the most conspicuous objects in the land- 
scape, crouched quiet till you came within a yard of them 

87 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 



a hateful betrayal on the part of the Ancient Mother. I have 
never felt anything like the Chinook wind. The sense of 
physical well-being induced by a temperature change for 
the better of fifty degrees is so pleasant as to have almost 
aphrodisiac effects. It is like being kissed all over by a com- 
petent artist. The savage changes in deserts like the Mojave 
go, too rapidly from extreme to extreme. But in the Mon- 
tana Upland a lesser alteration brings with it a sort of 
euphoria which is like the effect of a delightful drug. And 
no drug I know can compare with that innocent hashish. 

Of course, the routine of such life can become trying, 
but it never did for me, possibly because I wasn't there long 
enough. The people were fantastically hospitable, what 
there were of them. Twenty miles on horseback were what 
five would be to the English-tailored cavaliers of the East, 
and a man thought nothing of riding half a day for a snack 
and a chat. Everyone was interested in you, and you found 
yourself with perfect naturalness repaying the compliment. 
This makes for pleasant social relations. I should not have 
believed that three days of blizzard-blockade with total 
strangers would be something to remember as quite incom- 
parably agreeable. I was sorry when the decreasing storm 
permitted me to depart from Tom Blakeman's delightful 
roof. There have been cold afternoons in Montana as well 
as the hot ones celebrated by the poet. 

One picture of that time, I must, however ineptly, en- 
deavor to paint. It is something to have fed steers at the end 
of a biting February day in the darkened light that falls 
across the world when prismatic sun-dogs come above the 
mountains. The metal-green alfalfa falls in a lengthening 
trail on the white snow. The hungry red steers follow with 
tossing horns, bellowing as they come, and one must not 
let the wagon stop moving at all, or they will trample each 
other in a general me!6e. The red beasts, the green hay, the 
field of dead-white snow under a gloomy sky with fiery 

88 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

clefts in it, have stayed in my head twenty years as some- 
thing to shoot at, for the life and death one could see or 
feel, whether it could ever be gotten on paper or no. 

Harry's accident which made me a hewer of wood, a 
drawer of water, and in a mild way a herdsman, had an- 
other pleasing consequence, for it brought me Rivers 
Browne, who came to help with the ranch work. A man of 
high breeding and instinctive delicacy, he had been a cow- 
boy for twenty years and had carried horsemanship to a 
point where, not merely an art, it was a philosophy. Every 
bone in his body had been broken by some sixty kicks and 
other catastrophes. And like the Maltese Cat he was lame 
all round, but desperately quick on his feet. To see him get 
on a bad actor, whether timid or vicious, was to witness the 
extreme of virtuosity. I have known no other man and only 
one woman who was fit to hold a candle to him. The re- 
markable Mrs. Hunt of the Ojai might fairly lay claim to an 
equal understanding of horses. In his youth in the early 
nineties Browne had been horse-wrangler to many caval- 
lardas coming up from Mexico with the longhorns pur- 
chased on the border. The duties of the son of an English 
general had consisted in breaking wild horses caught on the 
long march so that the vaqueros might ride them. With 
such a job there was no middle way. Either one died or one 
became an artist. Browne chose to become an artist. His 
min<jl was eager and charming. Like all men who have been 
lonely in cabins a day's ride from the nearest neighbor, he 
read voraciously, and his talk, illuminated by vivid experi- 
ence and highly intelligent judgment on books and men, was 
as fresh, direct, and delightful as it is possible for talk to be. 
Years afterward he and I collaborated on a couple of western 
ballads, which I supposed were take-offs of Service's inepti- 
tudes. I must have been mistaken in this estimate, for one 
of those tongue-in-cheek jeux d'esprit was betrayed into a 
serious anthology and now masquerades as an honest woman 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

and a sincere contribution to the literature of the frontier. 
One never knows. 

Browne's subsequent career has not been without interest. 
He worked for us in Nicaragua, and, by lying about his age 
to certain obtuse British officials, managed to wangle two 
years on the Ypres front. I hope he is still enjoying those 
apple-trees in British Columbia, which he planted against 
old age. 

When the windflowers came, I was completely restored in 
health, stronger than I had ever been in my life, and quite 
aware that the future was still an enigmatic blank. Nothing 
would have pleased me better than to idle for a while, but 
that was not in my father's program. I said farewell to Mon- 
tana and found myself secretary and assistant to the manager 
of a plantation in Alabama, where the hours were strictly 
from sun to sun, and what amusement there was, was of my 
own providing. 

The work had the merit of being varied. A morning with 
business letters and reports would be succeeded by an after- 
noon during which I bossed the hoe-gang or spurred on 
squads of axemen racing each other to see who could bring 
down their particular loblolly pine first, preferably on top 
of a defeated squad. Africa enjoys practical jokes of this 
description, and it was a sight to see their black faces blazing 
with mirth, as they leaped aside from the falling tree at the 
last possible second. 

The plantation, about four thousand acres, of which 
eleven hundred were under the plow, lay along the Alabama 
river in the very center of the state and the heart of the 
Black Belt. We were almost as far out of the world as I had 
been in the Northwest, twelve miles from the railway and 
telegraph. And I helped build the telephone that connected 
our far-flung posts of command with my own hands. 

Life, in spite of work not wholly congenial to me, was 
frequently diverting and always simple. The essentials were 

90 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

in the open. Riding past the house of our bookkeeper, I 
would see the gentle old creature, who had killed his man, 
smoking his pipe while with mild deliberation he wrung the 
neck of a chicken for supper. People moved softly and spoke 
quietly, but for some reason men were apt to go armed. I 
followed the fashion, though I never found occasion to use 
a weapon, and once was highly embarrassed when an auto- 
matic fell out of my pocket in the smoking-compartment of 
a local train. I need have felt no shyness. Every man in that 
smoker, except for a horrified northern drummer, produced 
a pistol as if to show me that my mishap could happen to 
anyone. 

I found my neighbors white and black about equally 
amusing. And I had little trouble on a point I had been 
anxious about, managing labor. I need not have been, for 
black labor is the easiest and friendliest in the world. Our 
men were, by contrast with plantations I knew about, get- 
ting a very good break, and in the main showed their ap- 
preciation. I found that they reacted with complete spon- 
taneity to ordinary courtesy and kindness. Once or twice 
firmness, which is abhorrent to my nature, became a prime 
necessity. And once I beat a boy of eighteen cor am publico 
with my belt. It made my innards turn green. And my aboli- 
tionist great-grandfather must have rolled over in his grave 
during the half-minute, while I went Simon Legree. But it 
had to be done. Done it was, and my abolitionist great- 
grandfather would have done it too. Nor shall I forget the 
laughter of the blameless Ethiopians as the lash descended 
on the back of Mose who had asked for it. I couldn't laugh, 
but it was better than taking the case to the star-chamber. 
Nevertheless there is nothing more hateful than striking a 
man who deserves it. I had no further trouble. 

A great part of our cotton grew on a great, simmering, 
fenceless, three-hundred-acre flat of bottom-land, which was 
so close to flood level as to make cultivation a worse bet than 

9 1 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

usual. It was no fun for us to hear that there were storms 
on the headwaters and to watch the river visibly climb under 
a cloudless sky. Overseeing is a dull business when, in 
Rimbaud's phrase, the hammers of July shatter the Heavens. 
But one must be there, or Africa will lose interest and per- 
haps get into fights inspired by Eros, or for a mere point of 
prestige. I spent many days from sunrise to sunset in that 
blazing desert of cotton, but I liked my gangs from the first, 
particularly when about three-thirty in the afternoon they 
lifted antiphonally their voices like smitten bronze. That 
strange extempore music when conversation might be car- 
ried on in a duet for five minutes at a time across the vast 
field, or when the whole outfit chanted together queerly 
transmogrified passages of scripture, struck me as often more 
spontaneously beautiful than the legitimate "Spirituals," 
lovely as they are. It is a good sign too, for it means 
they are happy and is by way of being an implied compli- 
ment to the overseer. I am glad to say that I heard it every 
time I took out a gang for the day. It was an odd accompani- 
ment to Keats, whom I read through amid the alien cotton, 
looking up from "Endymion" from time to time to correct 
the more obvious departures into immorality. 

There was some fun I did not make for myself, for in- 
stance the excitement of a barbecue, when the half-wild 
swine were run down and a three-hundred-pound boar was 
dog-wrastled, squealing with frightfully intelligent despair, 
by remorseless negroes, one to each leg. The exquisite pleas- 
ure that everyone white or black took in the meat had a 
touch of the Biblical and the Homeric, as though the Lord 
had made their faces to shine. Such delightful animal satis- 
faction is not seen among connoisseurs at more elegant 
banquets. And the joke seems to me to be on Lucullus. 

At such feasts I came to know a little about my neighbors, 
whose courtesy was as colossal as their ignorance. Pleasanter 
people are not to be found. But until the South finds some 

92 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

way of getting its pleasant people to use minds certainly not 
by nature inferior to Northern intellects, that beautiful and 
fruitful country is going to remain dull, poverty-struck, and 
certain that its troubles are the fault of someone else. There 
was just one person in the region who was addicted to 
thought an old lady, precisely like the cultivated wife of a 
Boston brahmin. Her fortune had vanished in 1865. And 
the opera in New Orleans and the Greek she had once 
known were, I fancy, alike pretty hazy memories. For forty- 
five years she had lived in a wretched excuse for a plantation 
house and had worn just such clothes as her cook. Her face 
was vivid with intelligence and her speech like crystal. For 
herself, I don't think she cared, but no philosophy was proof 
against the pain of seeing her grandsons getting every hour 
farther from things she valued and nearer to the poor white. 
And in fact some years later she killed herself in some hor- 
rible moment of despair. 

Feuds were quieting down in my time, though only a few 
years before several men had been killed in an adjoining 
village, because, as in John Hay's "Ballad of the Whiskey- 
Sling," a man stumbled in a barroom. At the house of a 
neighbor, the mother of my hostess suddenly made, without 
the faintest provocation, a remark of such unnecessary rude- 
ness at my expense, that I must have flushed. Anybody 
would have, but I saw my host's eyelid flicker. At the end of 
a meal punctuated by acerbities from the lips of that most 
unattractive old thing, he drew me aside. " 'Tain't because 
you're from the North. It's because you're a man. Hates 
everything in pants. Her father was killed. Her husband was 
killed. Her two sons were killed. They won't kill her grand- 
sons till they're eighteen, or maybe we can get it stopped. 
She thinks all men are killers." One hardly could blame 
her. But I have never encountered elsewhere discourtesy 
founded on that particular rock of offense. 

The intellectual poverty of the South is no doubt con- 

93 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

nected with its bad economics, but of the two it is the greater 
evil. They hardly enjoy the free beauty of the land, and it is 
hard for a stranger to do so when native eyes are so dull. 
The trees, post-oak, water-oak, and pine, are glorious. Morn- 
ing-glory and maypop are lovely flowers. Every creek cut 
deep in the red loam is a nest of sweetness. But no man 
regards them, and I have noticed that blindness with respect 
to natural beauty is apt to go with other blindness. My de- 
mands certainly are not exigent, but the absurd triviality 
of the conversation of both sexes took the cake. I hardly 
remember hearing, during that exile, one thing said by 
anybody, that hit off effectively a character or illuminated 
an idea. The vivid gnomic metaphor of New England, the 
picturesque fantasy of the Rocky Mountain states, belong to 
more fortunate moral climates. On the other hand such 
platitudes as central Alabama does utter are expressed in a 
better and purer English. And louts who never heard of 
Shakespeare speak his language, though never by any chance 
his thought. I nearly died of their bonehead speculations on 
the price of cotton and absolutely flatulent political opin- 
ions. When a really sweet-natured woman expresses in per- 
fect sincerity the notion that "Abraham Lincoln was a ve'y 
bad man/' what is there to do except to trepan her? In a 
time and place where a literal witch-hunt can happen every 
day (I myself have chased a voodoo-man half an afternoon, 
for the practice of his art is a penal offense and causes trou- 
ble in "the quarters"), it is not surprising if episodes like 
the Scottsboro trial shock and astound our complacency. It 
is fair to add that while that travesty was proceeding, only 
two hours' motor-ride from the Hall of Injustice, scientists 
as clear-minded as they come were isolating a new isotope. 
There may be hope in that. 

Complete loneliness is a bad thing, and I knew it on the 
plantation. Not a soul knew or cared about anything that 
interested me. And though a motor mechanic may sym- 
pathize with men who can only handle a pick, he would like 



ANNUS MIRABILIS 

to see even a Model-T Ford now and then. That was my 
predicament, and it is a very bad one. It even showed in the 
perfectly wretched poetry I wrote at the time, fortunately 
suppressed by the author before any editor got a crack at it. 
But at any rate I encountered bitter self-criticism for the 
first time in this connection. And that was no dead loss. 

Day after day went by with its routine dulness and rou- 
tine excitement, and no iced tea, if there was no ice, which 
is hell with the thermometer at 104. It was late in July and 
about four in the afternoon when my boss rode down to me, 
where I ruled the cotton field in lone splendor. He handed 
me a telegram. I could not believe my eyes as I read. Out of 
a clear sky the University of California, which six months 
before had rejected my timid application for an instructor- 
ship, now offered it on what seemed to me terms of imperial 
generosity. I had just an hour to make the twelve miles to 
the nearest telegraph-office, which closed at five. But we had 
a fast mare, concerning whom I still think with respect. She 
got me to Burnsville in fifty-three minutes. I have been 
ninety miles an hour in motor-cars and God knows how fast 
in aeroplanes. But that ride against time on a muddy red' 
road, where a car could hardly have crawled, still seems to 
me the symbol and essence of speed. She was a great creature 
and she was in foal too. But she merely seemed to feel the 
nervous irritability of pregnancy. I never even clucked at 
her, but she went ventre-a-terre the whole way. No vet- 
erinary obstetrician could have dealt with her more gently 
on the road back. Yet against my restraining hand we were 
home in an hour. She suffered no ill effects from twenty-four 
miles in less than two hours. And for her spirit and fire and 
the undulating ease of her long single-foot I would bless her 
name, if I remembered it. 

Two weeks later I gazed at the faces of forty young men 
and women in a recitation-room in Berkeley and wondered 
what in the devil I could or was going to teach them. It was 
the end of the wonderful year. 



VII 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 



UNLIKE other western institutions the University of Cali- 
fornia had and has many imperfections. But this does not 
prevent it from being one of the really pleasant places of the 
planet. The ease, the simplicity, the friendliness, and the 
genuine distinction of many of the faculty more than made 
up for deficiencies it would take no genius to point out. I 
doubt if a more unlicked cub than I became a member of 
any teaching force in the land that year, and yet in spite of 
overwork for which I was under-equipped, I had a splendid 
time. Also I was from the first treated like a man and a 
brother. All of which goes to prove my statement that it is a 
pleasant place. 

No university whatever is more beautiful for situation. 
Cardinal Newman himself, whose standards were notably 
high in this connection, could have picked no more suitable 
site. Set on the lower slope of the leonine hills that look out 
between the headlands of the Gate, near but not in the 
great city, it is sufficiently close to the main highway to the 
Orient so that all manner of men pass by and some pause to 
converse. Kipling has remarked that the lobby of the Palace 
Hotel is one of the four places in the world where sooner or 
later everyone of power or interest will appear. The observa- 

96 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

tion is very nearly true. And a mere list of my own casual 
encounters at or near that focal point would have a certain 
piquancy. The university maelstrom sucked in men of dis- 
tinction, who whirled in its eddies for a day or two before 
going to their own place, and though such connections are 
often unsatisfactory because brief, I am glad I had so many 
of them. Though near enough to reap the benefit, the uni- 
versity is yet sufficiently withdrawn and apart from the 
neighboring cities, to preserve, in spite of its astronomic 
enrolment, something of the air and a good deal of the spirit 
of honorable academic seclusion. 

The noble place with its tremendous view of bay, moun- 
tains, and the "crocodile silhouette" of the city, which at 
night becomes a Wagnerian dragon, has been adorned not 
unfitly by man. Great groves of eucalyptus and acacia, in 
spite of the prejudice of old Californians, have taken noth- 
ing from the magnificence of the original secular live oaks, 
and have the further virtue of hiding certain buildings. 
Though some of these are fussy, feeble, or downright hide- 
ous, the Mining School seems to me a shining example of 
good architecture, and there are others nearly as effective. 
White stone and red tile fit well with the burnt khaki and 
dusty jade-greens of an arid land. And I do not share the 
views of purists whose sensibilities are hurt by a capital lack- 
ing a pilaster or a doorway too closely resembling the mouth 
of the Cloaca Maxima, when the general effect is on the 
whole appropriate and not without distinction. By and large 
John Galen Howard, his colleagues, and successors deserved 
well of the university. For all the modern eccentricities and 
the pitiful relics of Harvard Memorial Gothic that yet 
cumber the ground, I do not think of the place as less than 
striking. 

When I got off the suburban train which bore me from 
the "Overland" to Berkeley, Tom Bacon, Professor of His- 
tory and the most entertaining great-uncle known to sci- 

^ 97 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ence, was there to welcome me, as always wagging his red 
beard, "that way he had." It seemed almost a dear ambition 
of his to get that hairy spike pointed horizontally out in 
front of him. It never descended vertically like reasonable 
beards. And in some manner it was an accessory to his pene- 
trating and perpetually diverting conversation. Uncle Tom 
("Tommy" to twenty-five college generations) was incapable 
of dulness, though he had been a clergyman. However, he 
had recovered from this, and, no longer feeling a vocation, 
had become a very good lecturer on history. A local simile 
for extreme contentment, current at this time, was, "As 
happy as Tommy Bacon when he got out of the ministry." 
His wit could be mordant and whether or no he feared God, 
he did not regard man. As toastmaster at a banquet, he re- 
marked after an elaborate and terrifically extended speech 
by Whitelaw Reid: "The Gods of the Mills grind slowly but 
they grind exceeding long/' And his revision of the psalmist, 
when he beheld Timothy Dwight and Jeremiah Day to- 
gether on Yale campus, may be quoted once more: "Day 
unto Dwight uttereth speech, and Dwight unto Day showeth 
knowledge." 

It was he also, who, when asked to supply an inscription 
for a building of the great San Francisco Water Company, 
gave them two. The first which they did not use was: "Stolen 
waters run sweet/' The second they found more to their 
liking for it read: "The waters hereof shall make glad the 
city." And I always liked his riposte to a man who had told 
a succession of rough stories. Disturbed by Uncle Tom's 
stony countenance, the pornographer said apologetically, 
"Perhaps, you have heard these stories before?" only to be 
withered by the answer, "Never, thank Godl" 

Under his roof I spent my first anxious days in Berkeley, 
once again a new boy in an old school, but informed and 
encouraged by as pleasant a guide as heart could desire. 
That kindness meant a great deal, though I hardly realized 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

for a year or more that the effort of taking me around was 
made at the imminent risk of pain and danger, for angina 
pectoris was definitely already in the picture. Later by an 
unusual decision of fate, I was able to repay that kindness in 
a measure by what for me was an act of incredible daring. 
He was the sort one would do such a thing for. 

Uncle Tom's chum and alter ego was my chief, Charles 
Mills Gayley, without competitor the best boss in the world. 
In a previous chapter I have deplored my first printed book, 
with the saving admission that it affected my history pleas- 
antly. Mr. Gayley had read that insufficient work after turn- 
ing down my application for an instructorship, and he at 
least must have perceived some shadowy promise, for later 
he gave me my chance. Also he was one of the few who could 
see that the allusiveness of the little book, however pedantic, 
was at least genuine, which was a darn sight more than lay 
within the abilities or the reading of more than one full 
professor of English I have known. It would be wholly 
impossible to do more than suggest the fire and life in him. 
He crackled with energy, and yet he was never wearisome. 
And I hadn't expected anything like him at all. His very 
first word to me, as he came, a beautiful straight soldier of 
a man, to the door of his study, where I waited for him and 
fate, were of this order: "I've not had breakfast. Come to 
the dining-room. I've got the most magnificent peach that 
ever was seen. You shall eat it." I felt we were going to get 
on. And never was an intuition better justified. From that 
day forward no moment passed when I did not feel pro- 
tected and instructed by him. He forgave my ignorance, and 
I for one feel that he reduced its extent no mean task. 

Mr. Gayley was born in Shanghai and to his dying day 
turned livid with rage when douaniers looked at him a 
second time, after reading the name of the city on his pass- 
port. He had his schooling in Ulster, where they unques- 
tionably taught the rudiments well. And before he had 

99 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

reached his majority, he had stumped Ireland for Home 
Rule and Parnell, and to such a purpose, that the Lost 
Leader offered him a seat in Parliament, if he would take 
out citizenship papers. But he was an American by convic- 
tion and gave up politics in Great Britain for classics in 
Michigan where he taught Latin after graduation. English 
studies presently engrossed him, and he went to Giessen to 
plumb them further. He was a strange product of the Ger- 
man mill, for at the time certainly specialization was their 
ideal, whereas his was catholicity. His mind was universal 
and ecumenical. I have known few men with more informa- 
tion on more topics. Yet he was invariably accurate and suc- 
cinct. Out of the Great Pacific Deep of his memory came the 
book you needed, the whole allusion you had only in part. 
Maimonides, Rabelais, W. S, Gilbert, it hardly mattered. I 
once praised someone like Paul Shorey for this quality. A 
colleague spoke up: "Gayley's like that. He knows." He did. 
And there was soundness in him too, as well as the all- 
inclusiveness and the glancing brightness. I think he was the 
first man of parts and position to raise his voice against the 
systematic absurdity of the German process of higher educa- 
tion in the form foisted on America by President Eliot. So 
far it has tended to make synthetic Wilamowitzes rather than 
Mommsens. Mr. Gayley's little book, Idols of Education, 
was a much needed blast against the soul-slaying, brain- 
shackling, youth-withering, methodological, bureaucratic 
regime that has made our graduate schools what they are. 
Furthermore, he practiced what he preached. Quite early in 
my career he told me in so many words not to take thought 
how I should add the pharisaic cubit of the doctorate to my 
stature. "I'll take care of you/' he said. And he did, with the 
result that I was, I suppose, almost the last man in English 
studies in any great American university to be promoted 
assistant professor without having passed through that Val- 
ley of the Dry Bones, where, contrary to Ezekiel, flesh does 

100 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

not return upon them. For that only, Mr. Gayley's name 
would be blessed in my sight. But a day hardly went by 
without giving me other reasons. Suggestions so ingeniously 
insinuated that they seemed your own proper impulses, 
hints that cleared away the small difficulties that beset every 
inexperienced teacher, quaintly expressed precepts, at which 
I might have laughed had I not grown aware of their imme- 
diate validity, these were the characteristics of a guidance of 
which I was hardly conscious. And it was the same in our 
games and diversions. He pleased me once on a golf fairway, 
when I had brought off a magnificent left-handed shot, which 
had changed his jubilation at my difficult lie into a sick cer- 
tainty that he was going to lose the hole. "Hm," he said in 
disgust, "I didn't know you were ambisinistrous." I like the 
coinage. So much of what is human is left-handed both ways. 
Even his comic rages made life bright, much as his generos- 
ity did. I was his subordinate for thirteen years, when times 
were good, when they were evil, in sickness, and in health, 
in the hour of death, and in the Day of Judgment. And I 
feel about him now as I felt always about him bright, 
beautiful, enchanting, incarnate vitality. 

But though Mr. Gayley was the nearest great planet, he 
was by no means the only luminary in the remarkable sys- 
tem which I had entered from the outer darkness of space. 
There were at least twenty-five men of mark, most of whom 
I came to know and some of whom since they affected me 
especially I propose to mention. There was, for instance, 
Hilgard the gentle old German, disciple and heir of Liebig, 
who during the Civil War had saved his college in the South 
from being burned by each of the maddened armies. The 
greatest agricultural chemist of his time, he was much un- 
like too many of his specialized successors, for he was a man 
of simply enormous cultivation, and in no sense the ex- 
ploiter of an apple-disease, or a blatherer about farm- 
economics. 



101 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Lawson, the geologist, who opined that the Cro-magnards 
were clearly a remarkable race because they had extermi- 
nated the inferior Neanderthal men "without whiskey or 
missionaries," was and is as vivid an animal as it is neces- 
sary to know. In conversation he gave no quarter. And 
my crest bowed in the dust, when, after I had uttered 
some amiable irrelevance, he turned tigerishly upon me, 
almost shouting: "Speak first and think afterwards seems 
to be your principle/' in spite of which, after I had publicly 
christened him "the sabre-tooth," we became friends. He 
had a real gift for phrase and could express contempt so 
that the shingles came off the roof. It was told him that 
someone had been made a dean. "Dean! Deanl" he snorted. 
"He's only a transcendental clerk," Last year I saw Harvard 
honor him at the Tercentenary among his peers. The fiery 
young Scot, who found the earliest known fossil, is a fiery 
old Scot now, but has not relaxed the fierce curiosity or 
lost the humor that between them made his work effective 
and his conversation worth seeking at lunch-time for a 
dozen years. 

Wholly different, but equally exciting, was Brailsford 
Robertson, the Australian biologist, a sort of Chatterton 
among scientists. When he was twenty, Ostwald and Ar- 
rhenius had written to congratulate him on his researches 
at the Antipodes. He seemed absolutely slated for the 
laurel, but it was his hard destiny to be a great man 
manque. He died in his forties before achieving what lay 
in him to do, having lost three or four years wandering 
in a theoretic labyrinth whence the minotaur had escaped. 
I had the disgusting experience of seeing him stumble into 
it, but suspected no evil, till years later when one of his 
colleagues told me of a curve that had been extrapolated 
on sound principles to disastrous ends. That blind acci- 
dent should have brought down such a falcon towering 
in his pride of place was hateful to me, for to know 

102 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

Robertson was like knowing Darwin or Faraday. This is 
not just my opinion. I venture to guess that Morgan the 
geneticist, whom I once met at Robertson's table, thought 
of him out of his knowledge much as I did out of my 
ignorance. That meal incidentally produced an amusing 
trifle. The talk had been biological shop miles over my 
head, and Morgan, a most courteous man, sought to draw 
me into the conversation. He asked me if I knew any- 
thing of rhymed physiologies. Now anyone who has inves- 
tigated the Spenserians knows Phineas Fletcher's "Purple 
Island," and I rode triumphantly into the tourney, not only 
visibly a master in my own field but with one foot in theirs. 
Everything is vanity, but vanity is highly diverting. 

Hamlet's speech about the character of his father would 
hardly be too much to apply to Robertson. He was a case 
under a dreadful modification of Pasteur's axiom about 
discovery. "The trained mind and pas de chance." All one 
can say is "Damn the luck!" 

As important a single influence and force as a man ever 
encounters anywhere was Arthur Ryder, Professor of San- 
skrit. When he died last year alone in his classroom with 
the solitary girl-student who was taking his course as the 
sole attendant of his end, a light went out. Gilbert Lewis, 
himself no slouch, said to me that the greatest mind in 
the University was gone. Nor do I feel any inclination to 
deny it. A wit of the first order (his description of the 
history department as consisting of "a sham giant sur- 
rounded by real pygmies" has the very smack of Voltaire), 
a poet of vivid and sharp distinction, and a translator of 
the Sanskrit Classics absolutely without peer or parallel, 
he had, to borrow an image from a Hindu poet, "at once 
the danger and the benignity of the cobra that spread 
its hood to keep the sun off the infant Krishna." He was 
the greatest antidote to stuffed shirts I have ever known; 
and the greatest friend of innocence and simplicity. 

1 103 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

From the beginning of our friendship he strengthened 
and confirmed what I dimly knew, namely that all sub- 
jects are not of equal value and, some facts are significant 
and that some, often quite picturesque ones, are not. He 
made me live the belief that it is necessary to read Chaucer, 
whereas civilized intercourse is possible between reason- 
able persons, without a special knowledge of Walter Pater 
and Oscar Wilde, both of them at that moment still stars 
of the ascendant. Also he rubbed my nose in William 
James and Tolstoi, I cannot be sufficiently grateful that, 
at the end of the ultra-violet decade and the beginning of 
the infra-red, I could talk with him about great books I 
was digging into for the first time. His violently individual 
opinions were unimaginably refreshing to the slave of 
split infinitives, hanging participles, and the other attributes 
of thousand-word themes. Merely to talk with him over 
the chess-board helped me to put in some sort of order 
an intellectual house which had been shakily constructed 
and sketchily furnished. One belief to which he perma- 
nently converted me was that critical writing is a base 
activity. If Arnold really liked writing On Translating 
Homer, why then so much less Arnold he. The only form 
of the habit which Ryder could even tolerate was what 
has been called ff O que c'est beau" criticism. A man 
who writes in a burst of enthusiasm for a new work of art 
is doing what is natural, however unnecessary. But a man 
who is concerned with trends and tendencies and schools, 
who rebukes Sinclair Lewis because he isn't like Willa 
Gather, or Pope for failing to resemble Keats, is talking 
through his hat and possibly suspects as much. Ryder put 
it concisely in an aphoristic definition. "A professional 
literary critic is a man who hates literature." What a lot 
of them there are! However sweeping the definition, in my 
sight there is much truth in it. Yet he was the first man 
in my world to recommend to me Lytton Strachey, whose 

104 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

Landmarks of French Literature enchanted him with its 
brief causticity. That must have been nearly five years be- 
fore Eminent Victorians was reviewed on the front page, 
beside horrifying communiques that admitted the destruc- 
tion of a whole Army surely the strangest compliment 
ever paid any author in these times, with the possible ex- 
ception of the burning of Thomas Mann's books. Ryder will 
reappear in these pages. A man who had been such a Caesar 
to my Antony would be apt to do so. 

The long table under the skylight in the Faculty Club 
dining-room was to me a focus of mirth and excitement. 
I saw Gilbert Lewis there once when his dark eyes were 
blazing with triumph. Eddington had just wired from 
Australia that the displacement of a star seen in the eclipse 
was of the order predicted by believers in the relativity 
theory. There I beheld Bill Williams, most pacific of 
physicists, unsheathe the sword against Sommerfeld him- 
self in the flesh, Sommerfeld who, whatever his knowl- 
edge of the forces that operate within the scientific atom, 
did not understand the unscientific atom and proved it 
with German thoroughness. Richard Tolman sat at that 
table. He was always diverting, never more so than when 
most in earnest, and interesting about anything from the 
Pentateuch to the actinium series. With him, though it 
strain belief, I played polo to curdle the blood of Buck- 
masters and Hitchcocks in a tanbark rink. It was not Hur- 
lingham, but it would serve, and has stood me in good stead 
when compelled to deal with "Produce of Long Island." 
Walter Hart might be there, astute as he was learned. From 
his lips the epigram came so easily that you were hardly 
aware of it till the burst. It was like being shot by a gun with 
a silencer. One Yale man, I am happy to say a chemist, 
learned not to take him on. He twitted Hart about a mis- 
created effort of the Harvard administration to apply effi- 
* ciency engineering to education. The newspaper headlines 

: 105 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

read: "Harvard men must now work." Hart's rejoinder, 
'Tale will watch the experiment with interest," is the height 
of instruction and edification. Less frequently the gentle 
and charming Chauncey Welles dropped into a chair to 
expatiate and confer. He was of the rare disappointed who 
are not embittered. No private ambition of his had failed 
to be defeated. Even academically considered he had at best 
a Pyrrhic victory. The hard and the light thought of him as 
a greying second-rater. Oddly enough others did not. And 
Lawson the fiery respected his "capacity for indignation." 
He had never had an unkind impulse in his life. And if his 
own Quixotism undid him, something about him compelled 
persons who could run rings around him intellectually to 
admire every fiber of a man wholly outside of the crass 
category of the successful. 

These men, and others of whom more hereafter, were al- 
ways in my background or my foreground, whether as allies 
or as companions, and, living or dead, have not ceased to be 
my friends. From the beginning they gave me aid and com- 
fort of which I stood in some need in a two-sided struggle 
against my own ignorance and that of others. 

By the time my first recitation hour came to an end I 
saw that there was a sharp distinction between college 
students East and West. The average eastern undergraduate 
at least in my time, behaved a good deal as if college was 
his unquestioned right and he could do what he pleased 
with his own. In comparison with the Westerner, he was 
a good deal better prepared for, and a good deal less in- 
terested in, the intellectual matters to which he from 
time to time directed his wavering attention. Generally 
his background was better too, and not infrequently he 
had had opportunities to travel, to hear music, and to visit 
the theater, which had not necessarily enriched his mind. 
O these last the Californian knew almost nothing. But 
he was correspondingly, if superficially, eager, a delightful 

106 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

shock to a tyro just plucked from the cotton field. The 
western undergraduate was honestly curious, and wanted 
the outline of a subject anyhow, whether or no his interest 
was deep enough to dig into the details. To him the uni- 
versity was a palace of art, a focus of the desirable, in which 
it was difficult but creditable to remain. A boy who has 
had opportunities so slender that he has noticed it him- 
self, and who has escaped from the hay-presses of Modesto, 
is apt to be impressed by white colonnades and academic 
omniscience in a manner inconceivable beside the waters 
of the Charles or the Quinnipiac. This amiable weak- 
ness had at least one satisfactory result from the standpoint 
of a beginning teacher, namely that certain problems in the 
instruction of adolescence scarcely ever arose. The main- 
tenance of order just didn't have to be thought about. 
One took courtesy and discipline for granted. And such 
scenes as occasionally occurred at Harvard or Yale were un- 
known. To hold attention seemed as easy as shooting birds 
sitting, and by no means so immoral. A teacher's principal 
difficulty was to know his subject well enough not to take 
the edge off such innocent enthusiasm. A ludicrous example 
of the difference in attitude, West and East, occurred in my 
first term. Five minutes after the hour began the supposedly 
quenched coal in my pipe ignited a handful of matches in 
my coat-pocket. A great puff of smoke rose up, and I burned 
my hand, putting out that highly personal fire. Had such a 
thing occurred at Yale, with me among those present, 
eighteen months before, I shudder to think of the uproar 
that would have bewildered a young instructor, and the 
general delight at the spectacle of learning in flames. Those 
young Californians looked at me with grave and flattering 
concern, and seemed as relieved as I was, when I con- 
quered the conflagration. If they had been Easterners I 
should have had a contempt for the pusillanimous spirit 

107 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

that did not seize such an opportunity. But already I 
understood. 

There is a lot of fun in introducing young ranchmen from 
the San Joaquin, or girls who know no delight beyond a 
San Jos6 drug store, to poetry, when no one of them has ever 
seen The Oxford Book of English Verse. It is an engaging 
experience. And that part was all right. But I found to my 
horror as I plowed through my first batch of thousand-word 
themes, that I hardly knew enough grammar to teach it. It 
was three mortal years before I even began to feel adequate, 
nor am I sure I ever was. And there was no shade of despond- 
ency and sense of defeat with which I was not familiar. This 
in a way was as it should have been. For it made me regard 
every recitation with such painful interest as a commander 
may feel about a battle, where the enemy shows signs of pos- 
sessing incalculable reserves. Never once to my recollection 
did I slip into the blas6 attitude of him for whom his task has 
become routine. And the beginning of every hour was to me 
like being compelled to dive through a thin film of ice into 
unimaginable deeps. And never, it seemed to me, did I mas- 
ter the art of asking the question that would keep a recita- 
tion from immediately dying, of explaining at the right 
place, of not explaining at the wrong one, or best of all of 
letting them explain, I can smile at my flounderings now, 
but even a more successful humorist might have found it 
difficult then. 

Yet from the first I was lucky. In my second division on 
my first day sat a boy with whom I was instantly on delight- 
ful terms, which continue to this hour. Presently there were 
others. And as far as personal, apart from educational, mat- 
ters went, things were on a good basis. I really liked them 
and I believe they liked me. It's a long way from a hoe-gang 
in Alabama to English i A in California, but I believe I had 
learned something in the cotton field. To parody Gibbon's 
remark about his militia service, that the major of infantry 

108 <g 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

had not been useless to the Historian of the Roman Em- 
pire, the overseer in the red furrows did his bit for the 
instructor among the yellow chairs. I had some reason to be 
pleased when a satirist took off my mannerism and idio- 
syncrasy in a skit in the student yearbook. It was a good 
sign. I can look back on that part of my relations and feel a 
certain legitimate pride. 

One saw a tremendous lot of what is included under the 
trite phrase human nature. And the more you saw the more 
you were permitted to see. There is a page in Stalky if Co. 
which explains many things about teaching, in particular 
that for one reason or another students are not necessarily 
immensely happy creatures. A boy from a mountain county 
in one of my classes wrote a rather good paper about his 
general hatred of the universe. I wondered what was biting 
young Werther and said a few kind words. Like Eugene 
Field, that was all he needed. He burst into tears with a 
wail: "I'm so homesick." Within a week he had soared to 
dizzy heights of scholastic virtue. In this manner the teacher 
may learn. He will learn in other ways too, when a really 
beautiful young woman, not quite but almost as distraught 
as Ophelia, complains to him that an elderly, respectable, 
and incredibly chivalrous colleague has made passes at her. 
It was impossible to believe that hysterical testimony, on 
which the breakdown was certainly not without comedy. 
She was utterly incapable of the work she had undertaken, 
and he had told her so, and that she ought to divert herself 
in other fields, for which she was clearly better fitted. This 
she had freely translated into an invitation to live with him 
and be his love. Though it had its sad side, that episode was 
amusing. And tragi-comic also was the occasion, the first and 
only one, when I disrupted a convent by giving a young 
nun an A and an old one a B. The older lady told me in so 
many words that not in all eternity would that injustice be 
wiped out. The younger one, on the advice of her Mother 

109 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Superior, informed me that she had been accused by the old 
fury of a personal attachment to me, an unpleasant im- 
plication as against a Bride of Christ. The Mother Superior, 
before whose tribunal the charge had been brought, must 
have been quite a person, for thereafter the young nun was 
permitted to visit my classes, against the custom of the order, 
with no duenna sister in attendance. One could be amused 
or grieved by such an episode, according as one looked at it. 
But there was nothing but grief in the last example I shall 
supply with respect to the education of the teacher. No one 
could forget the face of one boy who was in an agony as 
dreadful, and as unjustly his, as can fall to the lot of man. 
He spat the whole horror out under the eucalyptus tree 
back of my house. Ultimately he solved as ghastly a problem 
as ever was fronted, like a gentleman which he emphatically 
was. I am glad I knew that kid for the glimpse he gave me of 
hell on earth and the genuinely heroic. 

At the time of my arrival in the West, the town of 
Berkeley might be said to be a department of the university, 
let us say the Home Department. Though there were many 
business men who commuted to San Francisco, the whole 
life and tone and pace of things depended on the univer- 
sity. The place had the pleasant quality of a small New 
England town, in spite of the fact that it was already a con- 
siderable city. It made you think of a gigantic Farmington, 
a Concord in Brobdignag. Extreme simplicity, due in part 
to good taste and no doubt also to academic poverty, marked 
the pleasantest conditions of living I have encountered. 
Thorstein Veblen was fifty miles away at Stanford then, but 
he could have found little conspicuous waste and no com- 
petitive display. The very few people of means lived as 
simply as their neighbors. We were almost snobbish about 
it. Yet the gatherings at twenty houses where I loved to go, 
were productive of happier laughter than one always hears 
and of conversation as good as it gets. Largely responsible 

no 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

for this were a half-dozen old ladies, every one of whom had 
wit, elegance and intellectual style. Persons of whatever sex 
or age were welcome in their informal salons, where every- 
thing got discussed in a vital and epigrammatic manner past 
my praise. San Francisco is said to have had more good 
talkers in the seventies than any American city, and I can 
well believe it from my contact with charming old women 
who had been young in those days. They talked as precisely 
and gracefully as Jane Austen heroines, and they were not 
one whit interested in the rise or fall of their neighbor's 
finances or in their connubial infelicities. Mrs. Palmer, her 
beautiful dark eyes blazing with pleasure and excitement, if 
the subject were George Sand or Goethe or Mark Twain, 
and equally entertaining, twitting or being twitted, in some 
famous triangular conflict with Mrs. Charles Blake or Mrs. 
Howison, could make an evening for anyone. And there 
wasn't a trace of any hateful highbrow business about it, no 
factitious Eleusinian pomp of the intellectual. On the con- 
trary only wit, learning, brilliant common sense, and kind- 
ness, which made a bridge for her to any other human being 
between ninety and nine. No spiritual engineer can do 
more. 

I speak of Mrs. Palmer in particular, because she was, so 
to say, prima inter pares, and because I was on intimate 
terms with her for many years. Mrs. Palmer had the odd 
distinction of being the only woman ever born on Yale 
campus, for she came into the world in the house of her 
grandfather, Jeremiah Day, then president. As a growing 
girl she had visited much in Concord, where Emerson and 
Thoreau were familiars of her aunt's household. She had 
come as a young woman to California over the Isthmus just 
in time to see the Vigilantes in full blast. Her escort one 
Sunday afternoon had suddenly hurried her into a side- 
street without explanation for his action. But out of the tail 
of her eye she had perceived the reason, the bodies of Casey 

111 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

and Cora hanging from the crane that thrust out from the 
upper story of Fort Gunnybags. She had known the Cali- 
fornlan worthies like Bret Harte and Edward Rowland Sill, 
and Sill's copy of Landor which she gave me is on a shelf 
in this room as I write. To sit with her by the window that 
looked toward the Gate, when she was in the mood for a 
little conversation, was a privilege high. She had seen 
Dickens shoot his cuffs so that the adoring multitude might 
admire his gorgeous sleeve-links, and seen him shoot them 
again that they might admire yet more the still more gor- 
geous pair to which he had shifted in the intermission. 
That seemed to bring one close to other times, with respect 
to which she gave me reason to alter my opinion. No heresy 
is more absurd than the cant of the moderns about the 
dourness and fatalism of New England before the Civil War. 
Ginger was hot i'the mouth in Connecticut of the fifties no 
matter how many Malvolios were virtuous. It was Mrs. 
Palmer who first revealed to me the ancient scandal of the 
"Yale Gallinipper, a publication of which my grandfather 
was business manager. That sheet was suppressed by the 
authorities, because of a scurrilous ode to the president of 
the university. The opening words were "O Jerry," and 
doubtless it was sufficiently innocent, judged by modern 
standards, but the charm of it to the guilty inner circle was 
the fact that a satiric piece sharp enough to bring the 
authorities lumbering into action, was the work of Olivia 
Day, Mrs. Palmer's aunt, and the daughter of the subject 
of the poem. Other facts might easily be adduced. But that 
episode makes clear to me that the theory of a New England 
of gloom and doom stands in immense need of serious 
revision. It was gotten up by outsiders with axes to grind. 
Our novelists and historians ought not to lose sight of the 
mirth and variety which, for all the much advertised grim- 
ness, have always been great and essential parts of the 
Yankee temperament, 

112 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

I have dwelt a little on Mrs. Palmer, because she and her 
circle were typical of New England, transplanted, and at 
its charming best. And it was that transplanted New Eng- 
land that had founded the university and given it tone. The 
poverty of the faculty was more than compensated for by 
grace and brains in a city where even nouveaux riches sub- 
dued a disposition to splurge. On the whole it is my con- 
sidered opinion that I have never been in a place where 
people were more genuine and attractive, and where there 
was so little disposition to keep up with the Joneses. What 
America may yet be, a country of uncompromised and un- 
compromising intelligences, was, it seems to me, foreshad- 
owed in the unpretentious town. We have drifted very far 
from all that. But we could return. 



113 



VIII 



FIRST SOLO 



MY FIRST year at the university would have been exciting in 
any case, if only because of the tigerish effort to keep half a 
jump ahead of three swollen divisions of Freshmen. But 
there were other sources of interest. I was writing verse with 
a furious energy and little skill. I was rapidly falling in love 
with the lady whom I subsequently married. In short, it was 
a very good time indeed and the world smiled in a novel 
and indulgent manner. 

On $83.33 a month, one is clearly no Croesus. But it was 
the first time I had ever earned my living. And there is a 
thrill in that to those who have hitherto been comfortably 
supported. The mere sense of independence is superb. I 
lived like a fighting-cock and have never felt so wealthy 
since. I eked out my salary with the sale of some of my 
verses to editors of remarkable generosity, whose like is not 
found in these degenerate days. When my first cheque ar- 
rived from Harper's Weekly (what possessed them to pay me 
$100.00 for that particular set of doggerel verses, I cannot 
imagine), Pizarro in the treasury of Atahualpa was, para- 
goned with me, a mere collector of loose change. And two 
acceptances in one mail during the Christmas holidays 
proved that no one had yet shot Santa Claus. I did not know 



FIRST SOLO 

how cold the baths of Apollo could be and might be par- 
doned for not understanding that one could get away to a 
flying start and still bog down at the water-jump or fall at 
Becher's Brook. The sight of those first verses with illustra- 
tions was like seeing one's passport to fortune with all the 
necessary visas. It took many a rejection slip to shatter that 
first and not at all incomprehensible confidence. 

There was a lot of fun in the world. Almost the first man 
I encountered when I went into the Faculty Club for lunch- 
eon on my first day was my classmate Selden Rose, whom I 
had only known as a handsome but casual acquaintance in 
college. He had come out with Rudolph Schevill, the new 
head of the Spanish department, as a teaching fellow in Span- 
ish. I had admired him, but did not foresee the intimacy that 
should grow up between us. From the moment when we 
shook hands that noon in the brown-timbered dining-room, 
his powerful, penetrating, and playful mind has been a 
pleasure and a necessity to me. To light by chance on such 
a friend at the very outset of the adventure was the very top 
of good fortune. And our gross jackbooted feasts were great 
stuff then, and now in retrospect. The noble debauch on 
Thanksgiving Day, 1910, when Selden, Jack Pigott, and I, 
strangers in a strange land, with nearly twenty dollars apiece, 
took possession of Felix's Cafe on Montgomery Street (there 
were no other guests) and ate and drank for nearly five 
hours, deserves a Rabelais to recount it. We behaved very 
well. But at the end of it, when I left them for another party, 
over their physical protest, I think we all knew more about 
Pantagruel, a person concerning whom everyone should 
have some theoretic and practical knowledge. 

There is no hospitality like that of the legitimate Cali- 
fornian. The difficulty is not to abuse it. A busy man will 
drop his affairs to take care of some Easterner with a letter 
of introduction. And what they must think, after breaking 
their backs in the West, when they are told in the East by 

115 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

a secretary over the telephone that Mr. So-and-So is in con- 
ference, I leave to the imagination. I got more than my fair 
share of that hospitality in Berkeley, in San Francisco, and 
the adjoining towns. And there was a liberality and absence 
of stiffness about the little parties that was new and exciting. 
The Victorian cloud had never been thick and had lifted 
early in that sunny world. Young people today may think it 
idiotic that I was startled when I discovered that it was 
absolutely the thing to take a girl to dine in the city a deux, 
and a darn good thing too. But no one in any set I knew 
could do it in the East then. The chaperon, still enthroned 
by the Atlantic, hardly existed on the West Coast, and if 
she did at all, was, as debutantes say now, a bit of swank 
like a Rolls. Manners, however, if anything were better and 
easier. I liked it. 

All that year on top of my desperate immediate activities, 
I was reading. I grew aware of whole continents of literature 
hitherto unknown or merely alluded to by more experienced 
voyagers, and made the beginnings of a systematic explora- 
tion of English poetry. This interest, natural enough for 
me, was greatly encouraged from an odd quarter the 
United States Army. Colonel James Walker Ben6t at that 
time commanded the Benicia Arsenal on the Carquinez 
Straits, and his son, William Rose Bent, who was a friend 
and relative of Selden Rose, used to take me up on week- 
ends to the absolutely paradisiac old army-post. It wasn't 
like an arsenal. It was like the back-drop of a romantic play, 
all pepper trees and acacias, and fountains, and pillared 
porches. Merely to enjoy the hospitality of that family in 
such a place was more than one deserved, and to know the 
Colonel, for a man of my tastes, was like a delightful elec- 
tric shock. The Colonel was a fine soldier, amused at the 
fact that he commanded forty-five men. But eight years later 
he ruled forty-five thousand as easily and well. And he dif- 
fered in one respect from all other soldiers. He knew more 

* 1 ifi a 



FIRST SOLO 

about English poetry than most poets and all professors, and 
he had the Elizabethan lyrics by heart. Such a man deserved 
to have all three of his children become excellent poets, 
which as the world knows came to pass. It was a sight to 
see him in his white uniform, a mint julep in each hand, 
as he waited on the leafy porch for me, while MacDonald, 
the old Sergeant, who had been in the Pope's Guard in 1870, 
got my bag out of the horse-drawn station-wagon. And then 
the talk with him over the cool drink about "Death's Jest 
Book," and "The Hound of Heaven," or "Farewell, Rewards 
and Fairies." Better memories than had their origins in the 
Benet weekends may be known to other men, but I desire 
to be shown. That place was heaven for a person who liked 
what I liked. What odder thing than to be in a room with 
four or five charming people, every one of whom knew, 
"without being solemn about it," that poetry is one of the 
few things which are really important? 

All through that year with its splendor of freedom and its 
misery of feeling insufficient, I had grown more and more 
conscious that if I wished to keep my job, I should have to 
know German better. The triumphant moment when I 
opened a letter from the administration, which informed 
me that I had been reappointed for the ensuing year, did 
nothing to alter that belief. And accordingly as soon as the 
second semester ended, I bolted for Germany. Bremen, dull 
beyond German dulness, received me. I found Berlin much 
better and very like Chicago. I had only a day or two there, 
but I had the encyclopedic mind of Robert Blake to guide 
my ignorance, and the interest of the place was undeniable 
in spite of the gosh-awful ugliness of much of it. One pic- 
ture made a strange impression even then, though I have 
no gift of prophecy Unter den Linden at sunset, and a 
yellow Zeppelin nosing like a goldfish against a soft breeze 
a thousand feet overhead. All faces looked up as they heard 

117 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the musical monotonous thunder. I suppose they thought 
their future was in the air. A few days later, in the pretty 
town of Marburg, I was settled en pension, at the house of 
the Frau Geheimrath von Osthof, and struggling hard with 
the difficult tongue, which I have never subjugated to 
suit me. 

Quite by accident I was in just the right frame of mind. 
Properly to approach German literature one should be 
twenty-three, homesick and convalescing nicely, without 
being aware of the fact, from what is called an unhappy 
love affair. One should also be in Germany. All four condi- 
tions obtained in my case, and I had the superlative luck 
to pitch upon the one perfectly appropriate book to begin 
with, which the reader can easily guess was The Sorrows 
of Werther. I simply gorged myself on the essence of senti- 
ment, and wept freely over the tremendous periods. The 
claptrap in the book has been only too visible ever since 
Thackeray wrote 

Charlotte having seen his body 
Borne before her on a shutter, 
Like a well-conducted lady, 
Went on cutting bread and butter. 

Nevertheless, I feel that to land on it with both feet and 
feel naively the spirit, the experience of it, was something 
never to be regretted. Goethe really became a figure for me 
and I am glad I read nearly all his poetry when I was young. 
He wasn't the only one. The Wallenstein Trilogy might 
appear artificial and constructed to the more discerning, 
but not to me. And Grillparzer's dramas, particularly Konig 
Ottokar, got under my skin too. But the glory of German 
literature is of course lyric poetry. How a people who once 
had such unbelievable grace in their minds and in their 
expression, can print the "Lorelei" in a contemporary an- 

118 



FIRST SOLO 

thology under the caption "author unknown" is a question 
I leave to Oedipus. 

Another question is almost as bad. I had a perfectly charm- 
ing time in those two soft summer months. Marburg is a 
quaint place with one of the most beautiful Northern Gothic 
churches in the world. People were kind to me, really pleas- 
ant and friendly. Yet the fact is that, like nine out of ten 
foreigners, I didn't really like Germany. Three years later 
the very best propagandists for the Allies were the Amer- 
ican college professors who had taken their doctorates in 
Germany. In May, 1914, they would tell you almost tear- 
fully about golden student years at Goettingen or Leipzig. 
And they were all on the band-wagon before Von Kluck 
turned away from Paris in August. There is something al- 
most disconcerting about the unanimity of the feeling, 
which I think is aroused by the Teutonic demand for ad- 
miration. The German habitually runs down directly or 
by implication whatever is not German, however good, and 
habitually praises whatever is German, however bad.* And 
he feels a sort of missionary urge to convert you to his view 
of his own not inconsiderable virtues. A Frenchman may 
regard you as a prancing barbarian, but he implies it in a 
manner as if he recognized that prancing, though a primi- 
tive art, is not without interest. But a German will say that 
you are a prancing barbarian in such a manner that it is 
impossible to understand his lack of fellow-feeling. And it 
is the private grossness of individual Germans, particularly 
when clothed with some little public or academic authority, 
that poisons the mind of the world against them. Never in 
any other country have I seen such a scene as took place 
when my landlord, otherwise a charming man, had a dis- 

*Mr. Benjamin de Casseres has collected the opinions of Friederich 
Nietzsche on Germany and the Germans. By a singular coincidence it would 
appear that Nietzsche had the good taste and good fortune to arrive at my 
conclusions some years before I was born. 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

pute with a one-armed peasant, his neighbor. The scream- 
ing voice, the menace, the helplessness of the man who had 
to take it right or wrong, made me sick. In the United 
States Caspar Milquetoast would have punched Al Capone's 
nose before submitting to such a violation of human dig- 
nity. But only very few Germans, most of them in exile, 
seem to bother much about human dignity, which can only 
be preserved by laws and by manners uncommon in Im- 
perial Germany, and non-existent under the new tyranny. 
Yet what exceptions there are! I found them in the pleas- 
ant, picturesque little provincial town and in great roaring 
Frankfort, where I went once or twice to hear the opera. 
A kneipe at the Hasso-Borussia society was at least as good 
fun as any American undergraduate gathering. There for 
once I figured as far-wandering Odysseus and wove such a 
tale of the Far West as captured the attention of the young 
heroes of the mensur. They were absolutely open-mouthed 
about it, and asked for more details about Indians like little 
children. Nine out of ten of those pleasant boys must have 
been dead by the third winter after. "No front has yet been 
invented where second lieutenants live very long." I watched 
between incredulity and disgust the strange sport of those 
young creatures. The three cuts, the three guards, and the 
cheek laid open, became a bore after the first bout with 
the schlager or the saber. But I suppose it was good prepara- 
tion for men whose destiny it was to lead infantry columns 
against British batteries firing with open sights. 

More attractive than the dull and bloody duels was a 
strange evening with a total stranger in a beer-garden on 
the other side of the Lahn. It was a regular white night, all 
moonlight and black shadow, with a Siegfried of a boy sing- 
ing to a guitar, to himself, and suddenly with complete 
confidence, to us. He had the whole Liederschatz in that 
guitar, and he sang beautifully without affectation. When 
he tore off "In Schwarzem Wahlfisch bei Askalon" it would 



FIRST SOLO 

have broken up a papal consistory, and when he cried out 
the great song: 

Es zogen drei Burschen wohl ub$r den Rhein. 
Bei einen Frau Wirthin da kehrten sie ein, 

one understood "the simple-hearted people that have pleas- 
ure in their pain." 

Those exciting months came to an end. I visited some 
nice people, almost certainly Jews, at Frankfort, where I 
wept at Tannhaiiser, quite like a German, and was made 
intensely drunk on kirsch by my host. He not only liked 
his cherry-brandy, but was as keen a connoisseur of English 
literature as ever was stock-broker. Swift was his particular 
admiration. I have been looking for years for a man on 
Wall Street, who has a shelf in his library and a warm place 
in his heart for, say, Heine. 

On the morning I left Frankfort the Agadir Crisis came 
to a head. Breakfast was a melancholy meal. My host and 
his wife were visibly frightened, for Lloyd George's fighting 
speech was "sehr bose" and gave pause to saber-rattling 
emperors. It's dreadful to think how long that Welshman 
has been news. The train was full of silent and excited men 
who dashed out at every station to buy newspapers. It 
sounds horribly ungrateful that after two of the pleasantest 
months of my life I had no sympathy at all with Germany, 
and was as happy as a clam, when at Cologne it became 
evident that her bluff had been successfully called. Men 
settled back in their seats. The tension was over. Everyone 
knew that there would be no war this time just as we 
know it today. 

The Ostend boat took me across a channel so calm that 
every star had its counterpart in the motionless dark water. 
I dashed from London to Ireland, where I beheld another 
Lake Asquam which they will call Killarney. Three days 
among the Children of Wrath, a week at sea, a hot overland 
voyage, and the veteran returned to his post of command. 

<8> 121 



IX 



INTERVAL BUT MOT OF REPOSE 



THE five and a half years between September, 1911, and 
April, 1917, were doubtless more interesting to me than I 
can make what befell me to other people. In the first place 
I got married, no man more happily. I have known no 
more interesting mind than that of the Lady in question. 
And that side of life was simply the apotheosis of satisfac- 
tion. In my semi-public job things were perhaps not so pleas- 
ing. Pressure of work increased every year. The relatively 
small university I had joined grew horribly, doubling, and 
tripling, and threatening to quadruple. And I found myself 
giving more courses and more varied ones. 

One storm I weathered under what have always seemed 
to me curious circumstances. At the beginning of my third 
year, Freshman English was reorganized lock, stock, and 
barrel, and a novel method of teaching was introduced, 
which had its merits, though I still think of it as pretty 
mechanical. I found the new method difficult, as did the 
other instructors, in particular a new Ph.D. from the East, 
with whom I struck up a friendship. In many ways he was 
better trained than I, especially so in philology, but as a new- 
comer he was distinctly on trial. After the new system had 
been in rather halting and clanking motion for about a 

122 



INTERVAL BUT NOT OF REPOSE 

month, the professor in command visited all classes to see 
how we were getting along. The work had been going so 
badly in all three o my divisions that I had come to hate 
the course, and the visit of the inquisitor was merely an 
extra turn of the screw on a man who was numb already. 
But the unexpected happened. There was such a recitation 
in the presence of the mute with the bowstring as I never 
experienced before and very seldom afterward. Had every 
boy and girl in the class been my familiar friend, and had 
they known that my academic fate was in the hands of the 
visitor in the back of the room, they could not have played 
up better, if so well. Every one of his notions was demon- 
strated before the delighted eyes of the lord high execu- 
tioner, who purred audibly. The place was electric with 
excitement and interest. And I couldn't believe my eyes 
or my ears. It was well for me. My philologist friend was 
dropped at the end of the year, which is a bad thing for 
a well-trained and competent man of twenty-four. But for 
the strange accident of that unique recitation, I might well 
have been the partner of his misfortune. 

Mr. Gayley believed in having his boys do varied things, 
and in process of time I found myself giving more advanced 
courses. One of these had a pleasant origin. A poet in a 
Freshman division asked me if I would help him and a 
friend of his with their verses and talk to them about 
prosody. I agreed to do this and gave them a couple of 
extra-curricular hours a week. Though it took time, it was 
great fun, for they were in desperate earnest, and the little 
class forced me to arrange my ideas. At the end of that 
year the only begetter of that extra-legal instruction prom- 
ised to get fifteen good students, if I would offer a formal 
course in verse-composition. Thus English 106 was born, 
and no one ever had a more diverting experience than the 
instructor. The boy was as good as his word, but he went 
far beyond it. For past all doubt the fifteen most brilliant 

123 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

creatures in a student body of eight or nine thousand were 
in that class. They had minds of real distinction then. And 
today practically all of them are people of mark. And they 
were perfectly charming into the bargain. It would make 
any teacher's mouth water just to remember that lot and 
the things they did and have done since. A leading drama- 
tist, a first-rate college president, the most prolific pot-boiler 
of the times, who beyond that is a brilliant poet, a poetess 
of real power and distinction for whose posthumous volume 
I wrote the introduction only last year, and a fine translator 
from the Slavic! My lord, what fun I had! The verses they 
wrote were adolescent and immature, but what bright 
gleams of parts, and what fire and drive! I was as near happy 
with that class as a teacher ever gets. Not that I can be 
said to have taught them. But I take some credit for hav- 
ing the sense to stand aside and let the Liverpool Packet go. 

Even after that aerie were graduated the course stormed 
along with the momentum they imparted. There were 
nearly always exciting persons in it. And the mere threat 
of making something seemed to keep it healthy. I never 
felt any sense of sterility or bookishness about it, as I was 
too apt to feel about my more formal lectures. What tosh 
I gave English 106 was tosh in good faith. And I never felt 
about it one twinge such as a man feels who must cover 
certain ground with examinations in the background. The 
whole thing was a profitable pleasure, and it was good to 
have encountered the bright engaging minds of Frederick 
Faust, of Sidney Howard, of Jacques LeClercq, of Gene- 
vieve Taggard. 

Meanwhile I likewise labored in my own vineyard. George 
Noyes, one of the best Slavic scholars in the country and as 
good a man as I have known, suggested that I assist him in 
a verse-translation of the Serbian ballads. Jacob Grimm 
knew that they were the best in Europe. And before him 
Goethe had made a magnificent German poem out of "The 

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INTERVAL BUT NOT OF REPOSE 

Wife of Hasan Aga." We set to work. Now if one works 
with George Noyes one works hard. And in this case I 
worked fast too. In three terrible months in 1913, in and 
out of free time, we hurled together a book of 275 pages. 
And I wrote three hundred lines of my part in one day. 
George's part was perfectly done, but mine, which is what 
the reader sees, shows evidence of the haste of a young man 
rushing to complete his first big job. Yet between us I think 
we did not altogether miss the strange fire that burns in the 
originals. And there is nothing to be ashamed of in the Eng- 
lish version of the long and beautiful "Ballad of Ban 
Strahin." 

It was George Noyes who started me off to try my luck 
with "The Song of Roland." I went up to Roncevaux alone 
with almost as little knowledge of Old French as Roland 
had of Basque. But I found that it wasn't so hard, and the 
poem got me, for a noble thing it is. I should not pretend 
to have done more than shadow forth that muscular epic. 
But neither has anyone else. And if a reader gets a whiff 
of the Middle Ages out of my translation I ask no more. 
And for myself I had a superlative emotion out of working 
at the gorgeous and angular old poem. The afternoon when 
I wrote the last line in the stone summerhouse in Santa 
Barbara still gleams in my mind. One does not have the 
sense of accomplishment so frequently as to forget it. And 
that was my first job with no one to lean on. 

While I was thus engaged, the university was changing 
around me and not always for the better. The geometrical 
progression of the enrolment did not improve standards. 
And the administration came more and more under the 
influence of pedagogical theorists, whose notions were un- 
connected with fact. Probably no single institution has done 
so much harm to learning as the American University De- 
partment of Education, Teachers College, Columbia, being 
the stream-lined model of successful criminality. The em- 

125 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

phasis on method (as if there weren't a million methods), 

the belief that someone who has heard teaching described 

is therefore qualified to teach something or anything, the 

notion that it is not necessary to know a subject but only 

where to look it up, such self-evident heresies as these were 

propagated by black-coated and rather slimy individuals 

who looked, acted, and thought like degenerate Methodist 

preachers. As Gayley said of one of them, they "caterpil- 

lared" all over the place like the larvae of hateful moths. 

It was in vain that Morse Stephens came all Balliol over 

them, or that Lawson gave one of them the lie direct in 

the open senate. The affront, as was indeed necessary, was 

digested with hateful meekness. But nothing would serve. 

They talked about "happifying" life. They lectured on 

"Brains vs. Battleships/' knowing nothing of either. They 

were all for carrying "culture" to the people. And, as the 

phrase goes, by the time they got through with it, there was 

damned little to carry. What they were actually and secretly 

doing was building up a political machine which would 

enable the State Commissioner of Education to be Warwick 

the King-maker in California. Their efforts have, I believe, 

been since crowned with success. But it was sad to see 

learned and honest men, because of their learning and 

honesty, helpless to oppose the hateful activity of those 

yahoos. 

It may be only that I was in a state of healthy disillusion- 
ment myself, but it seemed to me that an atmosphere of 
cynicism developed at Berkeley, that the old men ceased 
from dreaming dreams and the young men from seeing 
visions. Both turned with alacrity to golf, which may be 
conveniently played in the region three hundred days in 
the year. I observe in my own case a sort of unproductive 
period. I was despondent about verses that didn't please 
me, and rejection slips that were quite as hard to swallow 
with a smile. I may have wrongly diagnosed my own feel- 

126 



INTERVAL BUT NOT OF REPOSE 

ings at the time. Perhaps like all expeditions to Troy, big 
or little, I was merely being held at Aulis by unfavorable 
winds. Fortunately no Iphigenia had to be sacrificed. 

It wasn't all gloom for fine things came to pass. For one 
thing Gilbert Lewis arrived. And though I know nothing 
of chemistry and care less, the mere contact with his fierce 
and attractive intelligence catalysed languid processes, aca- 
demic or otherwise. His magnetic mind drew about him 
brilliant young chemists, Gerald Branch, Ernest Gibson, 
Richard Tolman. I could only touch the selvage of his 
ideas, but I was as fascinated as the conventional rabbit in 
the presence of a wholly agreeable fer-de-lance. Unlike the 
intelligences of many men, Gilbert Lewis's works in all 
directions. And his opinions on politics or literature have 
nothing of the academic quality of the specialist, who is 
often incapable of displaying in one field the penetration 
which has won him his spurs in another. Gilbert Lewis was 
one of the very few men of my acquaintance, who was able 
to turn his talents to real account, when the war came. His 
mind, that perfectly drilled battery, could be trained on 
any point. And how quickly he was on the target! 

And of course there was always delightful Arthur Ryder. 
At least two or three times a month, and sometimes oftener, 
our doorbell would ring its prelude to hours as interesting 
as I remember. His sardonic, darkly smiling face, with the 
eyes close-set, but fiery with intelligence, is the pleasant- 
est of memories. Ryder was definitely one of the twice- 
born. He had thought long and fruitfully on whatever is 
fundamentally interesting and agitating to men, and though 
he had as many prejudices as you or I, he was the essence of 
the just-minded. Brought up in the thick shadow of An- 
dover Theological Seminary, religion in its most unpalat- 
able form had been early thrust upon him. He had suffered 
all the revulsions and anxieties which seem to trouble New 
England very little now, and the rest of the country not at 

127 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

all. In his loving study of the Sanskrit poets and prophets, 
he had discovered answers and antidotes to the severe theses 
of the narrow Theocracy. And I never have read in my life 
a more exciting and diverting paper than his unpublished 
essay on religion. It was the sort of thing that would have 
warmed the cockles of the heart of William James, and, 
though no doubt influenced by him, was a wholly individ- 
ual achievement. Ryder believed that there are three types 
of persons, as far as the religious experience is concerned. 
First, there are the religious, people with a definite talent 
for the knowledge of God, of whom, perhaps fortunately, 
there are seldom more than seven or eight loose on the 
planet at once. Second, there are the pagans, the great mass 
of mankind, who do not give much thought to the matter, 
tend strictly to business, and have such a respect for the rare 
religious figure as a small-town lawyer may have for a great 
physicist. Third, there are the pious, unhappily too numer- 
ous, who, in James's phrase, "flirt with God on Sundays" 
and ignore him the rest of the week, when they devote their 
attention to making trouble for less complex natures. Start- 
ing from this classification Ryder had erected a system of 
thought that to me was actively attractive. There was noth- 
ing mealy-mouthed or half-hearted about it. It strengthened 
your admiration for saints and your contempt for ecclesias- 
tical bureaucracies. I had never been bothered essentially 
by such matters, but I think it was good for me to know a 
man who had been and had emerged. 

But religion was only one of Ryder's concerns. No man 
was more interesting to talk with about poetry, though it 
would be hard to say which he would have frightened most, 
radical or reactionary. His tastes were often as curious as 
Dr. Johnson's. Thus he was the only man I have known in 
all these times, who was competent to form an opinion, and 
who preferred Vergil to Homer. He was enchanted by the 
Romans' artistic perfection, and, admitting their magnifi- 

128 



INTERVAL BUT NOT OF REPOSE 

cence, held that the Homeric epics were stories for boys. 
Vergil was grown up, and so far superior. Tolstoi was a god 
to him and became so to me. Goethe he did not admire, 
calling him in the words of his friend MacDonald "a local 
celebrity." It would be overstating it to say that he disliked 
Dante, but he was pleased because Anatole France called 
him "un etrusque." He liked the connotations of the word 
which are definitely denigrating. Samuel Johnson he adored 
in Boswell and out, and he knew the great paraphrases of 
Juvenal almost by heart. And I am sure it would have em- 
bittered his soul to find himself in agreement on that point 
with T. S. Eliot. Finally, Emerson was for him the greatest 
of our poets. And though in many matters I have, for one 
reason or another, ceased to accept his views, in this in- 
stance he seems to me to have stated what it is a mistake 
to deny. 

At what appears to be the opposite pole, Ryder cultivated 
an almost passionate interest in science, with which I am 
happy to say he infected me. He was always turning up 
with books like Soddy's Interpretation of Radium or White- 
head's Mathematics. And he was the first man to point out 
to me a dreadful paradox concerning the times, namely that 
men use the fact that there is so much to know as an excuse 
for knowing nothing. He made it clear that never before 
had it been so easy to perceive the outline and drift of the 
sciences. Yet those who have the opportunity are precisely 
those who do not wish to inform themselves. The multi- 
tude of the incurious is a problem and a curse. Ryder was 
never a member of that multitude. 

His learning in his own field was Gargantuan, as his mag- 
nificent translations attest. His version of the "Panchatan- 
tra" was actually a best-seller. And when they put on his 
rendering of The Little Clay Cart, it was a Broadway hit, 
and apparently created in modern New York much the 
same emotion as in ancient Ujjain. Ryder's recreation of the 

129 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Hindu classics in English will be his monument, but I hold 
a brief for his original poetry, which George Noyes is now 
editing. It is an odd sort of poetry, humorously didactic 
often and full of irony, but to me powerful and penetrating. 
His views, which to many seemed merely those of a sore- 
headed recluse, were to me truth not cynicism, and he could 
get them into epigrammatic form as well as the next man. 

They of the inquisition prayed 
To him of Galilee. 
The renaissance of learning made 
A university. 

It must have been in January of a year when no one 
dreamed that an archduke would be shot in May and a mil- 
lion peasants in August, that I formed a cometary friend- 
ship which was real, but brief for reasons beyond my 
control. Chauncey Welles invited us to dinner. A young Eng- 
lishman had come with letters of introduction from Russel 
Loines. And it appeared that he was a person of some prom- 
ise. His talk was delightful, and we were all old friends 
before we got to the meat course. The young man's name, 
totally unknown at the time, was Rupert Brooke. 

I don't suppose any poet has had more harm done him by 
friendly critics and over-zealous photographers than Rupert 
Brooke. I should never recognize the Brooke I knew in the 
heart-broken dithyrambs of the one party or in the strange 
posed sepia-prints of the other. In a desperate time like 
1914 real passions make men take refuge in unreal ones, 
and people who were really fond of him foisted on Brooke's 
memory their own Shelleyan or Byronic fantasies. The semi- 
religious tone of voice in which people spoke of him would 
have made him spit poison. And such a picture was drawn 
as halfway explains the present and very silly tendency to 
undervalue him. Halfway only, and I admit being annoyed 
recently when a young man, secure in the knowledge that 

130 



INTERVAL BUT NOT OF REPOSE 

the opinions of 1938 came down on tables of stone from 
Mt. Sinai, lumped Brooke casually with the other imbeciles 
of the time. 

The Brooke I knew was as handsome a man as need be, 
but his beauty was by no means so striking as his perfect 
physical strength and grace. You could tell at a glance that 
he was a Rugby player. In five minutes you were aware of 
humor, rich, piquant, and frequently Rabelaisian. There 
was absolutely nothing of the maladjusted in his nature, no 
moonstruck melancholy, nothing that belongs to the artist's 
incapacity to endure the world. He loved poetry and he 
took it seriously, but he claimed no extra consideration on 
that ground. And he was fun at all times. Mrs. Cornford's 
fine lines about him don't fill the bill from my standpoint. 
The really swank antithesis, 

Magnificently unprepared 
For the long littleness of life, 

seems to me to miss entirely the gift of getting on with all 
kinds of people, that I thought, and think, he had. 

All through his two visits to Berkeley on his way to and 
from the South Seas, I saw a great deal of him. We dined 
together, we foregathered at Mr. Gayley's, and he even, at 
my request, read some of his poetry to English 106, who 
sat like mice while he rolled out verses that within a year 
were on every man's lips. To me he was a perpetual foun- 
tain of interest, for he brought me news, so to say. He was 
thick as thieves with the whole new school. And it was good 
to get authentic tidings of poets like Hodgson, Davies, Aber- 
crombie, and de la Mare, of whom only rumor had as yet 
reached the Coast. Brooke looked on de la Mare as the 
bright particular star. Of course he was right. At any rate 
it was pleasant to tell de la Mare in 1936 what Brooke had 
said about him in the year of the breaking of nations. 

Brooke had a splendid time in the South Seas, and though 

131 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

much nonsense is uttered by people who should know bet- 
ter, about the effect (impact they call it) of deserts vast and 
antres idle, I think those atolls evidently gave him some- 
thing, if only leisure to collect himself. He wrote some fine 
poetry there, and he picked up or invented a yarn of a young 
Englishman who was elected honorary king of some tribe 
of Solomon Islanders or Fijians. The loyal subjects called 
for a speech from the throne, a mere compliment, for 
neither side knew the other's language. He read them two 
pages of a novel by Henry James, which was received with 
cheers, I fancy for the first time on any stage. Brooke tasted 
with equal pleasure the Canadian legend about the Duke 
of Connaught's perfect behavior, when the Doukhobors 
went nudist, as a result of a prophecy that the day of judg- 
ment was at hand, and took the son of Queen Victoria in 
his field-marshal's uniform for the Prince of Peace. The 
embarrassment of a governor-general, when naked persons 
of both sexes swarmed about his horse and kissed his stir- 
rups, suggests that the old order must necessarily change. 

Twenty-four years, it is quite possible, might conceivably 
dim recollection. But I have a sufficiently clear picture of 
him still, never to accept the god-awful imitation of a great 
nature trumped up by zealots. I remember too much of the 
verses he recited and the cracks he got off. And one thing, 
of course, is in my head as if it had been burned in. He 
liked my poem "Sarvachradden" which he had seen in the 
Century, and he told me so. Not everyone has been compli- 
mented viva voce by Rupert Brooke, and I make my boast 
proudly. 

On August 3rd, 1914, he wrote me a letter from which 
these sentences are taken: "One's heart is too heavy to write. 
I hope you're having a good time. I wish I had seen you 
again. I shall, perhaps, next year?" The question mark with 
which a sentence declarative in form concludes, I fear I did 
not immediately notice. Another letter arrived out of the 

132 



INTERVAL BUT NOT OF REPOSE 

tumult, dated strangely enough, November nth, 1914, four 
years to a day from the tentative cessation of the struggle. 
It retailed the horror of the Naval Brigade's march out of 
Antwerp, a city on fire from end to end, and the long lines 
of refugees along the Scheldt under the burning petroleum 
tanks. That was my last word from the brilliant and mirth- 
ful creature before he vanished into the onrushing shadow 
of the Dark Ages. 



133 



X 



WAR? 



A FEW hours after Brooke dashed off his letter to me on 
the 3rd of August, the war began for me too, though in a 
different manner, where my life had begun, in the Works 
at Solvay. We had been staying in the village on our way 
west, when the news of the attack on Liege came through. 
It might be imagination, but I seemed to notice a percepti- 
ble variation in the rhythm of the great factory. Nonplussed 
engineers and executives came out of their offices, looking 
bewildered. The connection of forty years' standing with the 
parent Belgian Company was visibly broken in that mo- 
ment. It might be a small instance, but it was clearly the 
severing of one fiber in the huge economic umbilical cord 
that still connected the United States with Europe. What- 
ever the present relation between us, it is now o a wholly 
different character. And if the war did anything it empha- 
sized contrasts on both sides of the Atlantic. 

The present intellectual attitude toward the war leaves 
me very cold indeed. That every party to the struggle had 
been guilty and foolish is no doubt true, but that every 
party had been equally guilty and foolish, I for one do not 
believe. I am sorry there was a war, which of course is very 
nice of me. I hope there will be no other (silly hope as two 

134 



WAR? 

are raging as I write), which is nicer still. But I am firmly 
convinced, things being what they were, that if we had not 
fought, we should have been enslaved. The only fortunate 
result of the struggle is the fact that the ideal of individual 
freedom continues to exist in England, in France, and in 
the United States. It would not exist anywhere, if Germany 
had had her way. The hateful eagerness with which they 
have riveted their own chains is ample proof of the eager- 
ness with which they would rivet the chains of others.* The 
treaty that protracted the hatreds is, of course, too awful 
an example of recklessness even to criticize. Two rival gangs 
of bootleggers would have worked out a fairer solution. 
But no one will ever persuade me that the war was the re- 
sult of a plot of bankers, munition-makers, and diplomats, 
who betrayed their virtuous peoples into horror and de- 
spair. Peoples are not necessarily virtuous. The war was in 
fact simply the crash of irreconcilable philosophies based on 
medieval racial desires. Wiser statesmanship might have 
softened the acerbities, but if men were the way they were 
in 1914, then the fight was inevitable. And in such a cosmic 
conflict it is absolutely necessary to choose a side. The moral 
mountain peaks to which honorable but, I think, misguided 
men like Romain Holland retired, as they put it, "above the 
battle/' seem to me the most desolate and inhuman places 
I have ever heard of. There are just two things to be done 
with respect to the most hateful thing in the world, which 
is physical violence. One may submit entirely, or one may 
resist a I'outrance. But no one ever talked the violent out 
of their violence. Or if he did, he had a preponderance of 
artillery. There are three great powers today, who only un- 
derstand the unrhetorical last argument of Kings. And our 
Pacifists and Isolationists might just as well be on the pay- 
roll of the Dictator-powers. At any rate they are giving 

* This was written before the Pact of Munich. It is truer than before. 

135 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

active aid and comfort to the enemies of our belief, with 
Spain and China as an example of what we may expect. 

One immediate effect of the horror beyond the sea was 
a stimulation of things in general in the university. It 
seemed to wake from its routine, perhaps into a delirium, 
but at any rate it was wildly awake, at least to exterior 
excitement. That autumn a club called the "Sphinx" came 
into being, where undergraduates and younger faculty mem- 
bers met on terms of most satisfactory equality, and every 
issue was bolted to the bran. The discussions there remain 
to me something thrilling. That we ever arrived at proper 
solutions of anything is more than doubtful. But it was 
something to have discussed the matters at all in that sort 
of free parliament. Tom Hines battling with Moritz Bonn, 
who had presented the German case, was worth hearing. 
Alone, before as hostile an audience as a man can en- 
counter, Bonn defended a cause we all hated, with spirit 
and courtesy. I for one respected him. He cannot live in the 
Germany he sought to serve, and which will be ill enough 
served one day. Also there was the strange, attractive, inar- 
ticulate Carl Parker, who spoke in catch-phrases, as if it were 
against the law to supply a subject with a predicate. I 
thought of him as all sail and no hull, which is a poor rig 
for economic seas, but he kept things exciting. And the boys 
ate out of his hand. The wild talk about war, and economic 
reform, and philosophy, was no doubt ignorant or academic, 
but at least it set up uneasy eddies in the mind. The pre-war 
calm may have been only calm in appearance; but few of us 
who took it for granted have had occasion to take anything 
for granted since. 

Two years slipped by in an atmosphere of increasing ex- 
citement. One did one's stint as usual but grew more and 
more passionate. Selden Rose and I made some pretense to 
normality. With a delightful old Greek scholar named Jora- 
lemon we read the Odyssey through, something that gave all 

136 



WAR? 

three of us unusual pleasure. And beyond that Rose and I 
undertook and completed our translation of the Cid, the 
national saga of Spain. It is the strangest of epics, for it is 
completely devoid of the marvelous. It is as realistic as a 
modern novel. No horn is heard seventy-five leagues. No 
fantastic exploit beyond the powers of a strong and skilful 
soldier is even mentioned. Yet the poem is a poem and a 
fine one too. And it was sport to do it with Selden. Happy 
collaboration is like happy marriage. And it was certainly 
fortunate to have such a resource while the country drifted 
nearer and nearer to the maelstrom. 

Drift we did and private excitement kept pace with 
public. Our eldest daughter was born on April snd, 1917, 
the day that Wilson took the step. And I was almost im- 
mediately rejected as military material on the ground of 
imperfect sight. 

I suppose I must have felt a strange relief. But it was fol- 
lowed by a horrible sense of shame that I was barred out. 
The madness had taken hold of everyone. We had been 
bitten by the tarantula. Anything to get in. I put in most 
of the summer in a blundering attempt to learn Russian in 
the hope that it would help me to go places. I have for- 
gotten every word and the very letters, but there was a 
moment when I could totter staggering through not too in- 
tricate passages. And I actually translated a long stretch of 
Pushkin's Battle of Poltava into English verse. The poem 
is Scott with a Slavic accent, but more beautiful and quite 
as spirited. Russian, contrary to received opinion, is not 
harder than other languages. And the books for beginners, 
like Boyer and Speranski's, are better and more scientific 
than the elementary works on which we break our teeth in 
the Western tongues. Also I thought it a beautiful language, 
almost as beautiful as English, and perfect for poetry. 

Nothing came naturally of that project. But Hiram Bing- 
ham turned up in Berkeley and told me I could get a job 

137 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

on the ground in the air service, in spite of my eyes. I tried 
the State Department first, and then took Hiram at his 
word, though I foresaw the clerkship in a bureau that was 
for a while my fate. 

Before I enlisted in Washington, I saw one remarkable 
sight, Wilson and his cabinet walking through the streets 
of the city at the head of the Washington draft. In a straw 
hat, blue tennis-jacket, and white trousers, the President 
marched in front of six or eight thousand men, as if it were 
a peace-time procession. The men were still in their civilian 
clothes. At the rear of the procession came hundreds of 
negroes, who serpentined and danced, as if it were the gay- 
est moment of their lives. Most of the white men seemed to 
take it easily too*, but Africa was riotous. There was some- 
thing portentous about that. And Wilson's face was worth 
seeing at the moment. There was no smile on it. 

But I think there is occasion to smile, wrily perhaps, at a 
very minor interlude. At the Kosmos Club and at the break- 
fast table, I encountered a serious-minded acquaintance 
who was on the staff of one of the intellectual weeklies. Over 
the orange-juice I asked him what he was doing in Washing- 
ton. With an air of irresistible dignity and an expression 
devoid of humor he replied: "I have come down to watch 
the War Department." It seemed to me then, as it seems to 
me now, that he might as well have served notice on the 
Great Nebula in Andromeda that it had better behave or 
take the consequences. All the futility and sterility which 
have bankrupted our well-bred liberalism said their say in 
that naive sentence. And it has since been difficult for me 
to give to publications like that which he represented "such 
attention as they now and then deserve." 

In a skyscraper office I presented my papers to a board 

* consisting of a grumpy major and a smiling captain, who 

were to pass on my qualifications. I was sure that I had never 

laid eyes on them, but their faces were as familiar as those 

138 



WAR? 

of dear friends. I racked my brains and suddenly had it. 
They were the great tennis-players Lamed and Wrenn, 
whose faces I had seen in the sporting-pages for fifteen or 
twenty years. Tilden and Budge won't see me into the next 
battle. Under such auspices, before I knew it I was enlisted 
and in Toronto with a squadron of signal-corps troops, who 
were being ground fine in the British mill. 

I am still grateful for the violence done my mind by the 
Royal Flying Corps. Nothing I knew from books or had 
learned from experience was of the faintest value whatever. 
I was a babe thirty years old, incompetent with respect to 
every single aspect of the new life. The entrails of motors 
and machine-guns, the rigging of aeroplanes, the effort in- 
volved in mastering Morse Code, such things discovered my 
nakedness. I suppose I am as vain as the next man, but for 
fourteen months my vanity only existed in the unsatis- 
factory form of a capacity for humiliation. And the founda- 
tions of that state of mind were well and truly laid in Can- 
ada. Not once in my classes in Berkeley did I ever discover 
a student as stupid as I felt myself to be in Toronto. It was 
like being a mollusc into whose shell sharp pebbles are 
inserted. Nor did I see any prospect of converting those 
pebbles into pearls, as is the manner of efficient oysters. I 
was as unhappy as in my worst days at boarding-school, but 
this time I had no one to blame but myself, for I got on 
well enough with my comrades. There wasn't a trace of 
physical discomfort, but I lived a nightmare of incom- 
petence and inadequacy and thought of those six weeks as 
a foretaste of hell. To this day I regard a telegraph-key 
(Morse was the real scourge) as an instrument of Satan. It 
was a bad moment in the war too. For one morning the 
news of Caporetto was shouted along the sidewalks as we 
marched to breakfast. And it did not occur to me that there 
might be soldiers in the world even more bewildered than I, 
Of the very few bright spots only one is worth recalling 

139 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

my first venture into the air. An amiable pilot at Armour 
Heights took me up for ten minutes. And timid as I have 
always been and frightened as I was, when I looked out of 
an Immelmann turn at the horizon of Lake Erie, where I 
expected to see Toronto beneath me, the exhilaration and 
the wild sense of power overcame my feeble inhibitions. 

However gloomy Toronto, save for that interlude, may 
have been, it was a summer vacation compared with Wash- 
ington. There I arrived toward the end of November, 1917, 
and was duly commissioned a second lieutenant. I took it 
very seriously indeed, and full of new responsibility started 
for my lodgings. My path led past the White House and I 
was deep in troubled thought. There came a sharp military 
clank and a rattle that roused me from my muse. The sen- 
try at the White House gate was presenting arms at me. 
Before I could salute my heel slipped on the icy pavement 
and I executed such an entrechat as would have been the 
envy of Nijinsky. It took me some time to see anything 
funny or symbolic about the episode. 

The capital was more than ever a madhouse an expand- 
ing cancer of bureaus that conflicted and overlapped and 
were overwhelmed by their own size. The air service, which 
in April had consisted of a hundred officers and twelve hun- 
dred men, was now in November made up of twenty thou- 
sand commissioned and a hundred thousand enlisted luna- 
tics. The mere increase in the number of telephones (a 
hundred thousand new instruments had been installed in a 
few months) was a magnificent invitation to chaos. My K. O. 
one morning told me to get in touch with a sick officer at 
the Walter Reed Hospital. It took me four mortal hours to 
put through a city call. By ten in the morning the telegrams 
were a foot high on such unimportant desks as mine. And 
imagination boggles before the anxieties o| essential men, 
if I found my small difficulties so intense. One thing I rise 
bitterly to deny. The story of the swivel-chair officer who 

140 



WAR? 

wore spurs to keep his feet on the desk is wholly without 
foundation. I myself was more often than not on duty for 
sixteen hours at a stretch. I don't think I averaged more 
than four hours' sleep for eight weeks. And I know that 
everyone from the weary-eyed generals and colonels to the 
wilted stenographers looked as harried and strained as I 
felt. One died of exhaustion, and nothing got done. One 
gave one's very best, and did very badly indeed. I can see 
now that it was in the nature of the case, and in the very 
nature of war. But at the time I thought it was all my fault 
and that I was fully as useful as a German spy. It was not 
a comforting thought, when one reflected that inefficiency 
in Washington could breed a pestilence in Texas or kill our 
own men in France. 

It is the fashion to wail about the ineffectiveness of de- 
mocracies as contrasted with more rigid forms of govern- 
ment* Any totalitarian state in the mess we were in would 
have had the red revolution in a week. We ultimately got 
out of it. Whereas they are simply hell bent to get into it, 
and will whenever they stub their autarchic toes. Only one 
man ever doubted of victory in my presence, and he had 
been worn down by three months on the seemingly station- 
ary wheel of which he and I were agonized cogs. Nine men 
out of every ten were working as they did not know they 
could work, and not because of any bloody major. What 
shamed and hurt was one's own criticism rather than being 
bawled out, though that is no fun either. And I know that 
the kind of self-sacrifice I saw all around me was something 
that cannot be ordered up. If it comes it comes of its own 
accord. 

I touched the bottom dead-center of humiliation when 
my much troubled Major, towards whom I nourish no ran- 
cor, hung what I still think was his error on me not that 
it makes much difference who was to blame. It was a useful 
experience to me, for it shattered such self-esteem as I had 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

been able to retain and brought me face to face with what 
could not be escaped. I was ejected from his department as 
a servant is discharged. It was something about orders for 
six pilots. And the sense of colossal and guilty failure stayed 
with me for several years. One should know that sense some- 
time or other. But the amusement connected with such an 
episode is definitely limited in intensity. 

The mere existence of the bureau, into which I was dis- 
creditably precipitated from my previous molehill, was a 
disgrace to the nation. Its very name gave it away. It was 
called the Bureau of Congressional Correspondence. And 
the duties of the unfortunate ronds-de-cuirs in uniform who 
worked in it were to prevent senators and congressmen 
from using undue influence. That it took five officers to 
protect the Signal Corps from interference by legislators 
with respect to promotion and jobs, seems to me a com- 
ment on our system hateful enough to satisfy those who 
hate us most. The foul constricting pressure never relaxed. 
And the demands of our representatives were literally ob- 
scene. A New York congressman over the telephone threat- 
ened to "get" a colonel of my acquaintance who refused to 
promote one of the congressman's proteges. My intimate 
friend by prearrangement with the colonel was listening in 
on the conversation. That threat was not carried out. Our 
files were as filthy a brew of dishonesty and intrigue as heart 
could desire. It was like touching pitch to read the vile 
letters. But my captain, who was philosophical, pointed out 
that it served the country and did not defile our hands. 
This to comfort me when the friend of some legislator did 
me the honor of first cajoling and then menacing me, to 
no purpose. You can't get the blood of promotion in useful 
quantities out of a second lieutenant. 

What got you down in Washington was strained monot- 
ony, persistent dull tension, with now and then a dash of the 
acidly dramatic. One might get used to telegraphing people 

142 



WAR? 

that their sons had been killed, but it wasn't a pleasant duty 
on Christmas Day, 1917. I wanted to hold it up a day and 
let them have their parties in a fool's paradise. Not so my 
captain, who, in the classic phrase, had made a fine recovery 
from any attack of the sentimental he may have suffered* 
Something a great deal more important broke on a par- 
ticularly nasty Sunday afternoon. I was fumbling with my 
perpetual telegrams. Another shavetail was in command of 
the building, and he and I were alone in the dim offices 
when a code message came in. It had all the clarity of a 
Yucatan inscription. He asked me what I thought he had 
better do. "Telephone the Colonel." "O hell, let him have 
his Sunday/ 1 he said. An hour or so later as I labored 
vainly on, I grew aware of a shadow above me. It was the 
Colonel. I sprang to my feet in time to preserve the mili- 
tary amenities. And at a glance I saw that unless I lied 
quickly and well, that other lieutenant was going to get 
court-martialed. I managed it somehow. And I was sorry 
afterwards, for really the boy should have been killed. That 
unreadable wire gave notice of a blizzard and a meningitis 
and flu epidemic at one of the flying fields. For eighteen 
hours that luckless camp had been snowbound without suf- 
ficient blankets. And the local doctors having refused to 
assist, they had been without medical attention. War is pro- 
ductive of much which is not heroic or intelligent. Naturally 
the Colonel was in a fine field-officer taking. And my in- 
stinctive duplicity, a left-over from the schoolboy code, 
saved the skin of a fool. I wonder to what purpose. Tor 
various reasons I do not recall Washington with pleasure. 
How or why I was ordered to Rockwell Field, San Diego, 
I do not know, though I fancied gloomily at the time that 
the idea was to get me as far away from Washington as was 
possible within the boundaries of the United States. I went 
by New Orleans, passing every fifty miles or so the canton- 
ments which contained the embryo divisions of the great 

143 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

armies. They looked squalid but dangerous in the rain, and 
I could not know in January, 1918, that the mere rumor of 
them was already breaking the heart of the German staff. 
A month before the armistice, an English intelligence officer 
told me that the war would be won for the Allies by the 
German Intelligence Service, whose wonderful reports, illus- 
trated with photographs, about the enormous reserves in 
America shattered the spirit of Ludendorf. From what I 
saw from my pullman window, I can easily believe it. I 
hope a couple of tin-horn Napoleons, now the chief causes 
of anxiety on the planet, know that the huge crescent of 
camps from New York to El Paso could be re-established if 
necessary. 

I was a brief moment in Berkeley. It was strange and 
lovely to see one's family if only for a day or two. As per 
order, I inspected the ground school, much as a blind man 
might inspect a Titian. It was already twice as complex as 
the Canadian affair at Toronto and four times as complex 
as it needed to be. But that is the American way. While I 
examined the establishment, one of the few things I found 
amusing in that hateful epoch befell me. The draft had 
picked up my name as a deserter, as it picked up the names 
of most men who volunteered away from home. In full 
uniform with boots and spurs complete, I entered the draft 
office, and desired to have my name removed from the list 
of fugitives. I had a grotesquely strong impression that the 
phthisical civilian clerk who complied with my request was 
afraid that I might kill him, unless he acted promptly. 
It was one of the few occasions in my career when I have 
been conscious of inspiring terror, and the more diverting 
because I had no such intention. The engaging and re- 
markable author of High Wind in Jamaica has pointed out 
that few states of mind are more satisfactory. I have known 
it too little. 

My operations at Rockwell Field at first went as badly as 

144 



WAR? 

in Washington. I had been sent out as an expert, an expert, 
mark that, on co-operation between artillery and airplanes. 
My qualifications were the fact that I had been ten minutes 
in a plane, had passed through a ground school, had seen 
field-guns go by on parade, and had read a four-page French 
military pamphlet on the problem, which had been mag- 
nificently mistranslated, apparently by a Washington debu- 
tante. Nevertheless within twenty-four hours of my arrival 
in San Diego I was teaching a subject of vital importance 
of which I knew nothing whatever to boys who might kill 
a thousand of their own men if they didn't learn it. It is 
awful to know nothing and be ordered to tell what you know 
to persons who are going into the certainties of battle. With- 
out theoretical knowledge, without practical experience, I 
lived in a nightmare all the more a nightmare, because 
you could find nowhere the all-important information. The 
work I was doing must be valueless at best, I knew it, and 
I had too much naivete, or too little humor, to see that al- 
most everyone else was in the same boat. 

At the end of ten days I went to the executive officer, 
Martin Ray, and exposed the situation in a mixture of pas- 
sion and grief, such as I have seldom given vent to. It was 
one of the wisest things I ever did in my life, for there and 
then I found out what a good commander can be. He was 
the most overworked man on the field, and beyond all doubt 
the best and ablest. He knew quite as well as I that a man 
cannot teach what he does not know, and he took immediate 
steps to help me to know. I was so broken at the moment 
that I wanted to resign my commission and make room 
for a better man. In five common-sense minutes he had me 
calmed down and my morale re-established. "When you 
have made a mistake, don't let it happen again," was the 
bitterest thing he said to me. Trite it may sound, but not 
so at that moment. After that there were very few cannons' 
mouths I wouldn't have looked into, if it had occurred to 

145 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Ray as a good idea, though my natural disposition is not 
in that direction. Within a day or two he and I were at 
Camp Kearney together watching an artillery problem, a 
whole blessed day on horseback in the open. He drove me 
out in a side-car, and ditched us magnificently on the way 
home, when something gave way on the bike. Why we 
weren't killed I do not know. I didn't find out till twenty 
years later that he had never ridden a motorcycle till the 
day before. That was like him exactly. 

From that day forward he paid me the only form of com- 
pliment in which he ever indulged. It is a most inconven- 
ient form. Kipling speaks of it somewhere. He added job 
after job to my collection, till I had five offices, in all of 
which I was magnificently industrious and correspondingly 
inefficient. Yet things did get done. For he possessed a gift 
which indicates that something is wrong about Newton's 
laws. He could get more out of a man than had been put 
into him. Because of Martin Ray, I, who never understood 
a blue-print or an electrical diagram, directed, not without 
success, the construction of a "miniature range" with an 
elaborate fifteen-by-twenty pictorial map, forty thousand 
feet of wire, eight hundred lights to simulate shell-bursts, 
and forty telegraph keys. With such incredible and useless 
toys were heroes instructed. But orders are orders. Part of 
that work I did with my own hands, whose fingers are all 
inadequate thumbs. Because of Martin Ray I got up in four 
hours a course in meteorology for a class of nine majors and 
one lieutenant colonel (one of the majors being John Pur- 
roy Mitchell and the colonel one of the present chiefs of 
the air service). That course, after continuous effort and 
much collaboration with a brilliant pupil of scientific 
tastes, wasn't much worse than other courses in meteorology. 
But it is difficult to teach people, your superiors in rank and 
perhaps in ability. How my Berkeley colleagues would have 
laughed to hear me hold forth on adiabatic cooling and 

146 



WAR? 

Ferrel's Law! Nevertheless for a while I understood such 
matters at least well enough to inform the not too curious 
minds of junior military aviators. John Purroy Mitchell, a 
man of intellect, got 94 in the examination, and was so 
pleased that he offered to take me for a joy ride. We couldn't 
get a ship. Everybody liked him and when he crashed at 
Lake Charles, there was grief in San Diego.* 

I have never known a more curiously frank man than 
Mitchell. At San Diego he was still burning with rage over 
his defeat by Hylan and Hearst, and to me, a man casually 
encountered at a military post, he poured out the story of 
his wrongs, peppered with grim remarks about Arthur Bris- 
bane. One anecdote may be recorded. After the election, at 
a small stag dinner in Washington, Brisbane boasted that 
he had beaten Mitchell by playing up the mayor's intimacy 
with some member of the Vanderbilt family. He added cyn- 
ically that he wasn't even certain that Mitchell knew the 
Vanderbilt in question. A guest at the dinner turned to the 
host and asked him what he meant by inviting Brisbane to 
dine with gentlemen, which must have been a difficult mo- 
ment even for Brisbane. Mitchell's eyes shone with pleasure 
as he related the story. And certainly, if it be true, it is 
very satisfactory. It is well to remember Mitchell, for, 
though he died a disappointed man, men who knew and 
loved him ultimately tied the knot he dreamed of in the 
Tiger's tail. 

If Ray made me a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, 
he also made me a pigeon-fancier and a radio officer. I am 
a lover of birds with the exception of pigeons, creatures 
who have the morals of the House of Thebes and filthy 
diseases. They are not even good to eat. My colleagues 

* By a strange coincidence this sentence was written on July igth, 1938. 
On the 20th in the morning papers, I read the account of the ceremonies 
at Mitchell's grave in New York. I had forgotten the date altogether. I 
wrote twenty years after almost to the minute, perfectly unconscious that 
it was an anniversary. 

147 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

kidded the life out of me in the officers* mess when that 
singular duty was thrust upon me. 

To this day I wonder who the imbeciles were, who wished 
those birds on the air service and the gas army. Doubtless 
they have their reward, and I hope it's only a captain's half- 
pay. A god-awful nuisance those hundred "squeakers" came 
to be. Twice I nearly came to a sticky end because of the 
unamiable things. The whole business was ludicrous, as I 
bitterly reflected, while I sat astride the ridge-pole of the 
Hotel Coronado throwing pebbles at them to prevent il- 
legal landings in a training flight. And I have launched them 
from a plane in a side-slip (it has to be done in a slip, or 
they will hit the empennage and be killed), while another 
ship side-slipped beside us with four feet between the wings, 
so as to get a photograph of me illustrating the technique. 
At four thousand feet, with the ships trembling like maple- 
keys in the slip scarcely a yard from each other, the business 
had elements of terror. And we didn't have parachutes then. 
A tourbillon, too abrupt a motion of the joy stick, and 
the four of us would have been done. I know the spot- 
lighted center of the drama was so scared that orders were 
the only thing that carried him through. But I wasn't soli- 
tary, for so was my pilot. As soon as the photographer, who 
was almost near enough to have spat on us, signaled he was 
done, my calm Scandinavian child, with the nerves of 
vanadium-steel, fell like lightning out of the slip into a 
half-mile power-dive. He had had quite as much as he 
wanted of that region of unstable horror. I've never been 
shot at, but I don't see how it could frighten a man more 
than being photographed on those terms. 

Radio was different. The theory of it excited my mind, 
which, the reader may have noticed, derives a jackdaw satis- 
faction from bright and enigmatic matters. As usual, except 
for two battered, obsolete, French airplane-transmission sets, 
wholly inadequate for our necessities, we had no equipment. 

148 



WAR? 

My orders were to give three hundred cadets an hour apiece 
sending Morse from the air. In despair I consulted the radio 
officer of the Naval District, a highly trained and fascinating 
expert in charge of the six-hundred-foot towers of the San 
Diego Station, and a man and a brother, if there ever was 
one. When he took in the situation, he told me that in 
my place he should do nothing whatever, except damn 
Washington's eyes and tell them to send us equipment. But 
he also informed me that one could insert a key and an 
antenna in the ignition circuit of an airplane-motor, and 
be heard forty miles with suitable receiving apparatus. 
Little did he know how his charity would be repaid. We 
tried the system out on a motor in the repair-shops. When 
we found that it only killed 10 per cent of the power with 
the key pressed down, we installed it in a ship, and my 
pilot took me up to try it out. For an hour I circled above 
Point Loma, sending "Hark, hark the lark!" "Drink to 
me only with thine eyes/' and such other classic verses 
as casually occurred to me. In due course we came down, 
but not before I had been nearly knocked out by the 
swellest electric shock I have ever had. Also, I lost the an- 
tenna, when I reeled it in for fear of ships passing too 
near us and then let it go out too fast. The lead weight 
and three hundred feet of copper wire hit the sea and 
it was as if a whale had been killed. At the moment I 
wished it had struck headquarters. When I reached my of- 
fice, I found that the men on the ground had picked my 
selected Elizabethans out of the immaterial ether, together 
with matters none of us had expected. Flying as I had right 
above the Navy Station at Point Loma, I had, with the 
eight separate wave-lengths from my eight spark-plugs, ef- 
fectively jammed their reception. They could not tune 
me out any more than static. Nor could they hear them- 
selves think. And doubtless things of much interest to 
them were happening at sea. Accordingly my little expen- 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ment was accompanied by an obbligato of fervent and pro- 
fane appeals urging whoever it was who had run mad in 
the firmament to get off the air and stay off. I suppose that 
was the first and perhaps the last time that the Navy ever 
heard "Hark, hark the lark!" It pleases me to think of 
the confusion of mind it must have produced in some yeo- 
man first-class, who may yet be wondering about the horns 
of Elfland in halting Morse faintly blowing into his ear- 
phones. 

Rockwell Field exhibited one aspect of the army I am 
glad I saw military justice. I woke up one morning and 
found myself a member of a court-martial with a case of 
desertion bloody serious. I thought there was one cir- 
cumstance that counted for the prisoner. He was guilty 
all right, but he had deserted some time before war was 
declared, had been picked up by the draft, and was now 
being tried in an atmosphere of general fury. Accordingly, 
when, as junior member of the court, I gave my opinion 
first before a dozen officers of superior rank, I recommended 
the minimum sentence, seven years. One after another each 
in his turn said I was a softie, inquired if I knew there 
was a war, and urged the limit. They gave me a severe 
talking-to and him twenty-three years. I felt badly for both 
reasons. A month later the Judge Advocate of the Depart- 
ment reviewed the case and gave the man the minimum sen- 
tence. I felt it was a sort of private triumph for me against 
those disciplinarians. But somehow a second lieutenant 
rarely says yah-yah-yah to a bunch of majors. 

Twenty years after the pictures of Rockwell Field still 
seem to me extraordinarily detailed and luminous. It is as 
if my senses took in at this moment the long row of mean 
but efficient buildings, the air full of a perpetual belling 
roar. My first cross-country flight with the snow and sap- 
phire of the San Bernardino range on one hand, the ocean, 
etched with the hairlines of a million waves, filling the 

150 



WAR? 

gigantic horizon to the West. The drums and tramplings of 
a review for an English general, whose visit set necessary 
work back twenty-four hours. The officer in charge of 
flying, leaping over a table at a board meeting, when the 
klaxon blew not for one but for two simultaneous acci- 
dents. Falling myself in a plane whose motor quit in a go- 
degree bank a hundred and fifty feet off the ground. How 
we came out of that could be explained, but I don't see how. 
More ghastly still, coming down in the fog and the dark, an 
everlasting two minutes, before a magnificent sock on the 
nose and the scream of the wrenching spars convinced us 
that one should flatten before landing at eighty per. Both 
of us were knocked silly that time. Rescuing Bishop Law- 
rence and a party of clergy from a Tcheko-Slovak sentry who 
was sure they were German spies. No bishop was ever glad- 
der to see a man who had once met him. A prizefight, ref- 
ereed by Ray, between Benny Leonard and Willie Meehan, 
who had once stayed the steep course of Jack Dempsey's 
morning star. While fifteen hundred cheered, Meehan, a 
desperate hippopotamus, positively outran an embittered 
panther. The moment when, like Falstaff, I stopped my Ford 
"upon instinct" just in time not to roll into an airplane, as 
it "magoofed" in the post street, between the buildings and 
two yards from the car. The holiday, the first and only one, 
when the proofs of two of my books written far away and 
long ago arrived on the same mail. They were the second 
edition of the Song of Roland and the Cid. It was like get- 
ting letters from a man after he has died, but they were 
perhaps appropriate to the times. A filthy week when I 
commanded the cadet camp during the removal of the post 
to a point farther down the field and was never once clean 
below my collar. And finally three days of serio-comic mar- 
tyrdom when I cleared the post, and, judging by the severe 
attitude of the disingenuous quartermaster, must have stolen 
two-thirds of the accountable property, he himself having 

151 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

swiped most of my gold-medal cots. Like the British officer 
I had owned enough property to have my own war a young 
man who had great possessions. I came near going away very 
sorrowful, but for a different reason. 

The radio school at Columbia University received me 
into its impersonal bosom. The work was horribly hard for 
an imperfect physicist who hardly knew an ohm from a com- 
mutator. But it was almost like leisure after the drive which 
the genius of Ray (it was nothing less) had transmitted to 
the least cog at Rockwell Field. I even had a couple of 
twenty-four-hour leaves. One of these I spent at Peace Dale, 
where the local Liberty Loan Committee pled with me to 
speak to the people. In the torch-lighted square at Wakefield 
I exhorted the populace, which I shouldn't have done in 
uniform. I hated it from my heart. At the end of a few 
commonplaces I ceased. Some little boys surged up to the 
lighted desk where the blanks were exposed to be signed by 
patriots. They dragged and pushed a larger lad, whom they 
urged with threats and promises to put his name down. I 
had seen the tall boy's face frequently before, in times when 
one might go to the country club to play tennis. He was the 
village idiot. Even he had made money out of the War. And 
even a second lieutenant could see the irony. 

As I said the work at Columbia was hard. Two years at an 
electrical engineering school were crowded into two months 
on Morningside Heights. Running tests on batteries, or 
working on purposely imperfect sets in a freezing wind in 
Van Courtlandt Park, one could meditate on how ill one 
was prepared for the 1919 drive. I didn't care much either 
about examinations I could not pass. They didn't bother 
another officer. He cheated without shame and conspicuous 
success. It didn't get him far. A year later he was murdered 
for his boots by semi-tropical savages. More exciting was a 
lecture by Michael Pupin, as brilliant and vital a man as I 
ever knew. All I remember of the lecture were two sentences 

152 



WAR? 

delivered with such impressiveness that they stuck. "Gentle- 
men, I knew Joseph Henry. He gave up being a great man 
of science to become head of the Smithsonian and to fight 
Congressmen for his country." The last I had done myself 
and I sympathized. Pupin was a taking creature. In conversa- 
tion with me after the armistice, he said: "We Serbs want a 
King and a Hero, not a college professor." He was one of the 
greatest electrical engineers that ever was born, but half of 
him sang songs about Kossovo Fight and the curse of Tsar 
Lazar on Vuk Brankovich. 

A month before the armistice an English army officer told 
me that the end was in sight, but it was like being told that 
we had reached the bottom of the depression. I went grimly 
on my way among the mysteries of alternating current. Then 
about three, of an Indian summer afternoon, I came out 
from a class into declining light. Someone said to me gently, 
as if in a sick-room, "It's over." I, who had seen no blood, 
except what came out of my pilot's nose and my own in a 
minor crash, could hardly be said to have a right to the 
indescribable feelings that possessed me. I must have sat five 
minutes, without motion or utterance and so confused in 
thought that one could not call it thought at all. Then some- 
thing like a gravitational pull took hold of me and of every 
other person in sight. It was as if our lives depended on get- 
ting down town. Like lemmings, like caterpillars that feel a 
heliotropic thrill, we headed south. From ngth street to 
40th street I walked through a city whose relief from strain 
and fear was already insanity before I reached the Plaza. 
Women screamed hysterical congratulations. A bright-eyed 
shopgirl seized me by both hands, absolutely shrieking: 
"Bully for you, Jack!" as if I had done it alone. Niagaras and 
Yosemite Falls of torn telephone books and ticker-tape came 
over the ledges of skyscrapers. The press at 4oth and Fifth 
Avenue was murderous. And I personally pulled an elderly 
colonel, part of whose insignia had been torn off by mere 

153 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

friction, out o the maelstrom. A man as tall as I could 
easily see fifty thousand heads at a glance between the Li- 
brary and St. Patrick's. And through that mob gales of 
shrieking skatological mirth blew like trumpets. I had not 
known America could go off the deep end like that. Never 
before or since have I seen uncontrollable passion on so 
many faces. And a paradox which has been noticed before 
could be observed again, for that frantic hysterical leviathan 
of a mob hardly gave the equally frantic police a particle of 
trouble. One tiny instance. The police were trying to keep 
clear a lane toward Madison Avenue and had drawn a dead- 
line. A woman crossed it and a hundred men took a step 
forward, as if she were Jeanne d'Arc and had to be followed. 
Above the bellow and roar, a vast Irish cop shouted to her 
imploringly: "O Sister, be a sport." She went back. 

Deafened and footsore, I took refuge from the trampling 
and shouting in the Yale Club, normally a reasonably well- 
behaved and subdued establishment. At the head of the 
stair outside the lounge, on the tessellated marble pavement 
lay four lieutenant commanders, "like complete works of 
someone," and as dead to the world as is possible for emer- 
gency officers. Above them, perched nonchalantly on the 
balustrade, and as oblivious of them as they of him, an 
ensign (the navy as usual had stolen the show and was 
throwing its weight about) was delivering to all who chose 
to hear, an oration on the unhappy termination of his most 
recent love affair, whose breaking-off, or so he alleged, under 
the circumstances he regarded with complete indifference. 
In the rather baroque lounge a rather baroque Balkan offi- 
cer, his cocoa-colored uniform blazing with decorations, 
contrived to look like an Assyrian King who had discovered 
what cocktails were for. Beside him, and absolutely fraterniz- 
ing with him, British attaches lay at their ease, every shred 
of their stiffness dissolved in relief and alcohol. It would be 
easy to describe the scene as merely orgiastic. But that word 

154 



WAR? 

was given the lie by the expression on every face in the 
room. Not a man but looked like Christian when his burden 
fell off. And there was a sob of released emotions in the gay 
voices. For a moment they were delivered from the body of 
this death. 

About nine that evening the bitter intelligence that the 
news was false, or at any rate premature, went through 
crowds that vanished like breath from a glass. The glory 
departed. But four days later as I rose in the cold dawn at 
the club, I heard the froglike croak of whistles from the 
river-front. I took a taxi up town to the radio school. The 
streets were empty and it was as cold as the Eve of St. 
Agnes. Near Columbus Circle I saw a solitary man who blew 
eternally upon a red tin trumpet. Gel cor ad lungue aleine. 
It wasn't much like the horn of Roland. But this time the 
war was over. 

Over? Though it be the limit of triteness to say so, it 
never could be over for the men who were in it, even so 
homeopathically as I. Everyone was changed by it for better 
or worse. It underlined virtues and vices. The wise came 
out wiser. The silly came out sillier. Consider, for ex- 
ample, the American Legion.* I lay no claim to being wise. 
I hope I am not silly, but as far as I am concerned the hate- 
ful business was a sort of terrible blessing. It jolted me out 
of academic ruts. I could no longer hold beliefs that had 
blinded me. I may not have learned much, but I learned 
something from fear, from humiliation, from failure. Merely 
growing up to the unexpected but necessary grace of admir- 
ing men, whom a year before I should have regarded as un- 
housebroken barbarians, had for me value impossible to 
overestimate. And I think better men than I left behind 
them in the bureau or the field snobbery of one sort or an- 

* No organization which believes that the misfortunes of the many can be 
ended by paying large sums of money to the few, can escape this, or a 
worse condemnation. 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

other with which they could dispense to advantage. There 
had been horrible evils, death, wounds, pestilence, and fam- 
ine. And more were to come, the treaty, the ghastly let-down 
in everything on the part of people who had suffered too 
much. But when I put off my uniform and got into a busi- 
ness suit and felt the strange tightness of garters, an odd 
symbol of liberty to me ever since, I wasn't sorry I had had 
a slight taste of that cup. 

A few days after the armistice, a girl, the daughter of dear 
friends and herself dear, fell ill in New York. In two days 
flu was transmuted into "strep" pneumonia, before the new 
drugs, certain death. Doctor Rufus Cole said to me, when I 
asked too hysterically for more radical measures: "My dear 
boy, if there were anything to do, don't you suppose I'd do 
it?" Her family were wired for. And she lived long enough 
to recognize them. A little service was to be held in St. 
Thomas's and I, having just been discharged, was to accom- 
pany the family to California with the body. The father and 
mother were absolutely worn out from grief and watching. 
But they wanted someone to stay all night by the coffin in 
the Chapel of St. Thomas's. I was the girl's friend and 
slightly older contemporary, and they did me the honor. A 
sexton let me into the chapel about nine that night, and I 
stayed there till morning. I was so weary that I slept, and 
when I woke from time to time in the Gothic shadows, I had 
none of the ideas that people are supposed to have under 
such circumstances. Afterward it occurred to me that the 
episode was a genuine symbol of what had happened to the 
world. And I was not the only one who had known perishing 
beauty. 



156 



XI 



SOLDIER'S RETURN 



IN JANUARY, 1919, when the Big Four sat down to make the 
Treaty, I sat down to teach English. My job may have been 
less important, but it was a great deal better done, in spite 
of the fact that a sort of hatred of teaching, always in the 
back of my mind, now began to come to the fore. A year or 
two after my arrival in Berkeley I was already growing 
dubious with respect to "English" as a subject. Latin is a 
subject, Physics is a subject, English Philology is a subject, 
but to me English Literature is not a subject at all, meaning 
by subject a systematic body of relevant material which can 
be divided into valid categories. Someone has said that most 
lectures and books on literature are merely organized gossip. 
And Chauncey Tinker improved on Shaw's epigram: 
"Those who can, do, those who can't, teach," "and (said 
Chauncey) those who can't teach anything else, teach Eng- 
lish." Whether or no I am right in these views, which in part 
I derived from Arthur Ryder, I felt more and more that my 
work was mainly exploitation of my not too important pri- 
vate judgments. 

Furthermore, there was an aspect of the work that I defi- 
nitely disliked. My lectures on the whole were rather suc- 
cessful. The undergraduates seemed to like them. I had an 

157 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

uneasy sense that I was developing a taste for adolescent 
adulation. It is an unpleasant thing to notice in yourself, 
and it leads to something still worse, a tendency, slight but 
visible, to seek applause. Now applause that comes for actual 
performance is the finest thing in the world, and no one 
ever had enough. But applause that comes for a wise-crack 
ad hoc is the most demoralizing thing in the world, and not 
at all difficult to obtain. The line is a very fine one, say at 
3:30 of a soft spring afternoon, between keeping interest 
legitimately alive and developing some paradox which 
merely prevents the groundlings from going to sleep. I don't 
think I was any worse than the next man, but one makes 
one's errors. In fairness to myself, it is right to say that I 
loved the great writers on whom I lectured, and I tried to 
get others to love them. But there was always the doubt, by 
no means vague, whether or no the game was worth the 
candle. 

And the work, I felt, was keeping me from what I really 
wanted to do. I burned up enough energy in a semester to 
write a volume. It ate me up. I broke down once in 1915 
and again in 1921, real honest-to-God nervous crashes, which 
are much too common in universities. And I expressly warn 
anyone who wants to write not to look for his sinecure in 
any educational institution. If you fail at the work, they 
naturally fire you. If you succeed, they quite as naturally 
load you up. The celebrated academic leisure is a myth. As 
a general rule one works thirty-six hours out of every 
twenty-four. And if committees are added ! Now I was 
big with ambition. There was an epic poem on my desk (it 
is still there), which I thought had points, and I was dream- 
ing of more worlds, whose conquest the academic indefi- 
nitely postponed. 

What I had hitherto achieved still did not seem to justify 
the kind of hope I nourished. I was thirty-two when the war 
ended, and I could see for myself that one emaciated volume 

158 



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 

of incompetent original verse and three of verse-translation 
were not much to build on. I had had an occasional poem 
in magazines here and there. But either I was out of step 
with the times or my work had fallen off, for the editors 
were less cordial than in the bright dawn nine years before. 
In short, between work that grew daily more uncongenial 
and ambitions whose realization was prevented by that work, 
I had become a disillusioned prospector troubled by doubts 
about the existence of gold in the foothills of Parnes. And 
by gold I don't mean money. 

Such thoughts, which are naturally uneasy, possessed me 
when I went east to the tenth anniversary of my class at New 
Haven. I bring this in because it had a strange interest to 
me. When we were graduated ten years before, there had 
been among us exactly one man who chose a military career. 
When we returned for the reunion, half the class had been 
in the service, and the amateur warriors were all exception- 
ally glad that they were alive. It was as if we had escaped 
from a shipwreck, and it acted on us strangely and pleas- 
antly. No other jollification has ever struck me as so satis- 
factory. All sorts of perfectly natural reserves were dissolved. 
I have never seen men more at their ease, or been so myself. 
There was a gay frankness that was infinitely pleasing. One 
very rarely sees the collective animal when he is wholly 
agreeable. This time he was so to such a degree that the con- 
ventional inanities of the commencement ritual actually 
became delightful. 

Also I encountered at that time one of the most interest- 
ing men in the world. I had begun with a colleague, a 
mathematician at Berkeley, to collect material for a History 
of Aviation. We planned a book that should be a book. And 
it is unfortunate that it fell through for various reasons, 
mainly bad ones. That year Mr. Orville Wright was given a 
degree at New Haven. I went to see him at the house of one 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

of the professors. And the upshot was that I stopped off at 
Dayton on my way west and spent the day with him. 

No one ever had a more interesting day. The simple 
directness of a genius who had solved the greatest engi- 
neering problem in human history was an experience in 
itself. It takes one's breath away when a man tells you that 
he and his brother tossed a coin to determine which of them 
should go up first in the first successful power-driven plane. 
And nothing could be more exciting than his vivid account 
of Wilbur Wright's despair, when it appeared, from the ex- 
periments of Chanute, that motors immensely more power- 
ful than were available or conceivable would be required. 
In an agony Wilbur Wright had cried out as he looked at 
the figures: "Men won't fly for a thousand years." "But," 
added his brother, "we were in the air eighteen months 
later/' The mere record of their struggles with gliders, to 
the study of which they had been attracted by the writings 
of Lilienthal, took hold of me like a great poem. And it is 
good for my vanity to remember that I said something su- 
premely silly about the wind-tunnel to the man who had 
invented it. Nor was the story of what took place in a pro- 
vincial middle-western town, when the discovery finally 
ruffled the dove-cotes of European general staffs, without 
interest. For several hectic weeks, military attaches appeared, 
variously disguised but invariably instantly recognizable, to 
the mingled amusement and consternation of the Wrights, 
who lived the lives of the hunted in their own house. Those 
Prisoner of Zenda characters were merely diverting and in- 
effective. The real trouble came from American blacklegs 
who first tried to shake down the two Daedali and then 
founded great corporations. 

The Wrights were so able and so modest that there is 
some danger that men will fail to recognize the full great- 
ness of their achievement. Not only did they invent the idea 
of the warped wing, but out of mere ingenuity they created 

160 



THE SOLDIER S RETURN 

the lightest engine that had ever been built. Apparently they 
knew hardly more about internal combustion motors than 
I do, when they undertook the construction of the most 
effective one till that hour designed. The intellectual au- 
dacity of two men who sold bicycles is not the least aston- 
ishing feature of the business. And it must be a god-awful 
thing to lie in bed on a hot night considering a globe circled 
in four days and a city laid waste in four minutes, as results 
of one's highly ingenious solution of a secular problem. I am 
glad they did it. But Air-Marshal Trenchard's observation 
in the House of Commons gives the other side of the medal: 
**It is a great pity that flying was ever invented." 

A few days later I was back in Berkeley and almost imme- 
diately had a streak of luck. Between classes a colleague told 
me a story about an episode at Harvard. It was symbolic of 
the times and in its very essence satire. Ridiculous and 
trivial no doubt, but it acted like a detonator on me. Almost 
automatically I threw the story into Byronic ottava rima, a 
measure I had never written or dreamed of writing. It was 
like finding a nugget that betrays a hidden vein. In a week 
I had finished the "Banquet of the Poets," which had the 
superlative luck to win the favor 'of its principal victim, 
Miss Amy Lowell. She thought well enough of it to revenge 
herself by fathering her anonymous bantling, "A Critical 
Fable," on me. A flood of letters instantly flowed in, seri- 
ously compromising my academic routine. And my friends 
in the Saturday Review simply ignored my denials or hinted 
privately and in print that I was one of the most elegant 
liars of my time. I was within an ace of being bickerstaffed, 
like the poor astrologer who spent the rest of his life trying 
to prove he was not dead after Swift's circumstantial account 
of his demise. I succeeded in laying the ghost. A hint from 
Miss Bates was enough, and I accused Miss Lowell of her 
low intrigue in a rhymed letter to Henry Canby, and had on 
the whole the best of it. But even then she had the aes 

161 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

triplex to write my Aunt Caroline Hazard, that she still 
believed me to be the author. I like lying on that great 
imaginative scale, because it takes personality, which she had 
overwhelmingly, however forgetful times may have treated 
her poetry. 

"The Banquet of the Poets" had another admirer of 
whom I am discreetly proud. It was Paul Shorey, perhaps the 
greatest classical scholar of his time on this side the sea, and 
otherwise a universal genius. The creature looked like a 
Busch caricature of learning. In his sad-colored clothes you 
would have taken him for a gerund-grinder whose mind had 
never soared above anaphora in Procopius or similar divert- 
ing themes. Actually he was a bounding and ebullient genius 
whose mind was a whirlwind of mirth and learning. My 
Greek being sketchy, if it could be said to exist, I asked him 
one day, apropos of the odes of Cowley and Gray, what he 
could tell me of the odes of Pindar. He went visibly mad. 
A second later I was literally pinned against the wall. With 
his left hand he clutched my cravat and waistcoat. In his 
right he brandished a Teubner edition of the poet, from 
which he read in a rhapsodist's scream what I suppose must 
have been the Fifth Nemean, though I was too ignorant and 
rattled to be sure. He must have held me there by force 
seven or eight minutes, perfectly oblivious of the fact that I 
hardly understood one word, though I have never been more 
impressed by a more delightful enthusiasm. Sometime later 
he sent me a papal blessing on my satire, and for my edifica- 
tion a line from his travesty of "Locksley Hall," a poem 
very easily parodied and very deserving of parody. In eight 
scorching trochees he about summed up the igao's. 

O my Amy! O Spoon River! O Rabindranath Tagore! 

Better men than I have thought that with a couple more like 
him the Classics need not have died. 

Whatever my critics may say of my attempt to revive the 

162 



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 

Byronic satire, whether the work were well or ill done (and 
both points of view have been maintained by people I re- 
spect), that form of verse, and the mental state that begat it 
and continued from it, was a godsend to me. A part of my 
nature, whose existence I hardly suspected before the war, 
developed almost overnight. In no time at all I was active 
once more and full of a sense of something beginning. Since 
Byron died I don't suppose anyone has loved that stanza as 
I have, or written so much in it. I said something of my 
feeling about it a year or two later in Ulug Beg. 

My clumsy subtleties and ironies 

Die as I write them. After all, why notf 

I shall be dead one day, as Byron is. 

Little care I! I have a heart as hot, 

And though I lack that glorious verve of his, 

My cantos are as long, my rhymes as agile, 

And the goblet of my thought at least as fragile 

As his slight beaker of Italian glass, 

On whose curve burns Pompeian opalescence 

Of wit forgotten, as though it never was 

Here upon earth in bright and bodily presence. 

Who reads Don Juan? If such beauty pass, 

What shall become of my inferior essence? 

I do not know at all but none the less 

I fancy I could hazard quite a guess. 

That the thing became almost a compulsive thought-form, 
like the ideas of space, time, and causation in Kant, is per- 
haps true. In the cant phrase I had to think that way, because 
that was the way I thought. I could not escape and did not 
desire to, but it seems to me now that it was in reality an 
emancipation. For Byron set me free from Morris and Kip- 
ling, and even from himself. Whatever he thought of my style 
and method, I discovered them by writing twenty-four 
thousand lines according to an ancient pattern. Nor will I 

163 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ever believe I was the worse for it, or that it did not help me 
when I tackled matters which seemed more difficult and per- 
haps more important. 

It is hard to explain the fact that men often prepare 
themselves for what they could not possibly foresee. It was 
as if I had deliberately practised with the one weapon that 
could be used for a certain purpose and did not know the 
purpose. Certainly when one morning at Mission Hill I 
picked up a Sunday Los Angeles Times, the largest, thickest, 
and worst of great newspapers, I had no idea that I should 
find my whole fate altered at say about page forty-two. 
There I stumbled on a syndicated article emanating from 
Riga, where the best lies of the times are manufactured by 
rival propagandists, white and red. The article dealt with 
the first six months of Bolshevism in Central Asia, and as I 
read 

Came a click 
As when a trap shuts and you're inside the den. 

In ten seconds I was on fire with what became the mock- 
epic of Ulug Beg. I was burned up by it for a year and a 
half, though the first lines didn't begin to shape themselves 
for some months, and came to me at an inconvenient mo- 
ment, when I had to jot them down on the back of a Clare- 
mont Country Club bill for $540, oddly enough receipted. 
My college work interfered sadly with progress, but I had 
got through a couple of cantos, before I wangled a sabbatical 
year, on the ground that I desired to write a poem about as 
long as Paradise Lost, though not so good. We spent that 
year in Peace Dale. It is not possible to be happier. I wrote 
every day between three and six hours till I could drive no 
more. Then I read like a tiger, Walpole, Spenser, Lecky, 
Voltaire, Fiske, Trevelyan, Hardy, Henry Fairfield Osborn, 
Melville, Wordsworth, William James, on the principle that 
man is omnivorous. One digests better if one takes what 

164. 



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 

comes to hand. And the man who counts intellectual calories 
will find that the juices of the mind don't secrete very well. 
To top off there was squash-racquets before dinner every 
night. There is nothing better than to have an absorbing 
task and a furious recreation. When you come out of the 
court into the glimmering cold of a December night, it is a 
noble thing to feel the fervor of your own body. I hope I am 
properly grateful. 

The book was finished by March. For better or worse it 
shaped my fate and it has got me more of what a man really 
desires than most of my other works. To have been more 
successful it should have been less discursive, and many 
passages should not have been put in at all. Yet I think there 
was thought in the work, whether intrinsic or incidental, of 
which I need not feel ashamed. Everything I had read or 
experienced went into it, and a lot I hadn't. But it was a 
shock to me to discover, when I had with malice afore- 
thought purloined "jewels five words long," that illiterate 
friends and still more illiterate reviewers never suspected 
the intentional embezzlement. In fact they did not know 
there was anything to embezzle. The story about T. S. Eliot's 
admirer applies: "No other living poet/' said the enthusiast, 
"could have written such a fine line as 'The army of unal- 
terable Law'." "No other living poet," replied the adversary, 
"but George Meredith could and did." At this point my 
sympathy for Eliot, whose ironic quotation had been com- 
pletely lost on his witless votary, is of solar intensity. If they 
did not observe the borrowed plumes, which I had supposed 
every housebroken human being would do, my critics were 
even more seriously in error on another point. They put me 
down for a mighty traveler, familiar with the Pamir and 
acquainted with Himalaya. English army officers have com- 
plimented me in good faith on the local color of an Orient 
I have visited only in the imagination. As anyone can see I 
drew heavily on Kipling, but I got even more from Arminius 

165 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Vamb&ry, James Morier, Burton, Holdich (who, I feel 
certain, is Colonel Creighton in Kim) and Perceval Landon. 
Nor was Browne's extraordinary History of Persian Litera- 
ture wholly ignored. But all that background came out of 
books. Nor am I ashamed. Books are a part of life and ex- 
perience, in spite of the intellectual's admiration for what 
he calls reality. 

I stated above that the book won for me what a man 
really desires. It could hardly be said to have had a sale at 
all. But the people who liked it, liked it very much. Gamaliel 
Bradford reviewed it in the Bookman in such terms as very 
nearly to satisfy the author, though Alfred Knopf wrote me 
profanely that if Our Lord himself were to review any work 
whatever in the Bookman it wouldn't sell six extra copies. 
(Which is true.) Delightful men sought me out. There are 
few greater pleasures than to make friends for such a reason. 
I made them. A curious footnote may be added. The book 
was published under a pseudonym, because I desired to 
dedicate it to Kipling and did not wish to press into his com- 
pany under my own name. The work I considered was a 
sort of declaration of independence as against the over- 
whelming influence he had exercised over my generation, 
and he himself appeared in it as a minor character. He 
actually wrote me a note of acknowledgment. And it was 
not his custom often to acknowledge. I doubt if he even 
ran his fingers through the first few pages. But he did say 
that the dedication, in which I expressed complete disagree- 
ment with his politics, was interesting. Doubtless it was no 
more than common politeness. But common politeness was 
not necessarily the governing principle of his private life. 
Also with all his imperfections on his head, if that man had 
said one line of mine was "interesting/* I should not have 
thought the less of that line. 

It is perhaps appropriate in this connection to say some- 
thing of Mr. Gamaliel Bradford whose review of Ulug Beg 

s> 166 



THE SOLDIER S RETURN 



gave me unusual pleasure. He was a remarkable product of 
the Boston which had created phalanxes of George Apleys, 
and in my sight a singular, sympathetic, and tragic figure. 
Mr. Bradford was a lifelong invalid, who seldom was able to 
work more than two hours at a stretch, and a recluse by 
bitter necessity. His published work was remarkably success- 
ful with the public. But I am of the opinion that much of 
what still remains unpublished, his journal and his poetry, 
will be the basis of his fame. I speak with some knowledge, 
having myself read his two thousand poems. The verse is 
often pedestrian. But there is a fire and bitterness not found 
in his elaborate and always competent essays. The passion 
of literature ate him up. No man of the times was more 
learned. And it curdled the blood when he made a point by 
quoting entire stanzas from untraveled cantos of the Faerie 
Queen. The little, worn-looking man, in perpetual danger 
of savage pain, had managed to read every great author in 
five languages, yet had a healthy hatred of pedantry. From 
his sickroom he considered with a prisoner's yearning a 
world with which it was impossible for him to mingle, and 
his letters and poems are full of his deprivation. Yet he was 
not sour. He sought such contact with people as was per- 
mitted to him. And his kindness to younger writers was of 
the sort that is only found in great natures. Most men, sub- 
jected to a tithe of what he had to endure, would have hated 
everyone and collapsed into detestable invalidism. But he 
managed to be attractive and incredibly energetic at the 
same time. He had transcended the Puritan, yet kept his vir- 
tues. It is a good thing to like Tasso or Ovid, yet to retain 
something of Marston Moor. Ignoramuses made fun of him. 
They generally do, when any excellence appears that will 
not take up their marching-step. But I had the good fortune 
to admire that independent and direct mind. 

I returned to the university at the end of the summer of 
1922 to begin my last year of teaching. A change had been 

167 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

made possible, and I had determined to resign my academic 
footstool in the spring of 1923. The year went pleasantly 
enough, and the prospect of liberty was almost intoxicating. 
The university was kind to its not too profitable servant. 
And I take some natural pride in the fact that pressure was 
put upon me to reconsider my decision. But I knew better. 
Unless a man has a fundamental passion for teaching, he 
really has no business on a faculty. And if that be so, I had 
been on the rolls thirteen years too long. Nevertheless, when 
I delivered my last lecture, I had a queer pang, complicated 
by an almost savage joy that I should never again tell bright 
young people what they ought to find out for themselves 
without the intervention of a minor priest of literature. 

There was a dinner of the department for Professor 
Gayley who became Emeritus that year. And on that occa- 
sion I found how pleasant it was to have liked so many 
agreeable colleagues and to have it apparently reciprocated. 
Whatever feuds or differences there may have been in the 
past had sunk into oblivion. And I left with an excellent 
taste in my mouth. I do not know how much I taught my 
pupils, but I learned a good deal myself, even if it were not 
sufficient for my purposes. 



XII 



INTERIM AND CRISIS 



ANY violent change in the routine of existence is bound to 
have reactions. I was no exception when I regained my 
freedom with a sigh. The daily contact with exciting men, 
which I had come to take for granted, ceased with the daily 
grind. Nor did I at once get started on what I wanted to do 
in spite of unlimited leisure. The most trying time for a 
writer is the period when an idea is in solution, before it 
shapes itself. In reality he is working, but he feels and looks 
idle. Until the signal comes, he backs and fills like a yacht 
jockeying, and this in some measure overtook me. I idled a 
little in San Francisco, where fortunately for me I had pleas- 
ant friends. And it would be hard for me to be too grateful 
to that delightful group of men at the University Club who 
were called the "Old Guard." 

They were not just a bunch of congenial cronies, held 
together by long habit. Their union was the result of real 
struggles and anxieties in a country which was new when 
they came to it. The crises of politics and business had 
tested their friendship with every sort of acid. And now they 
sat back to enjoy it. They were anywhere from twenty to 
forty years older than I. But I never have enjoyed contem- 
porary friends more than that group. The annual dinners 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

of Warren Olney or Philip Van Loben Sels were something. 
The exquisite food and wine were surpassed by the exquisite 
ease and the exquisite manners. And there was some curious 
open-mindedness about them, that one is not apt to asso- 
ciate with elderly men. If you believed something which 
they did not, they did not tell you not to be a young fool. If 
something new turned up in science or literature or art, 
they wanted to know all about it. Warren Olney, their type 
and chief, was as fine a creature as I have known. He was a 
great lawyer, retired from practice, but he knew as much 
about Renaissance thought, particularly Erasmus, as a man 
needs to know. There was a story about him which always 
struck me, He was mayor of Oakland when Theodore Roose- 
velt, then President, visited the Coast. It became his duty to 
preside at a public meeting where the President was to make 
an address. Any other mayor in America would have shot 
his mouth in a big way. But Warren Olney merely said: 
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honor to introduce the 
President of the United States," and sat down. That brevity 
and dignity have not recently been imitated. 

I had seen a good deal of that delightful crowd for the last 
three years before I resigned and they were a great resource 
to me after our removal to Carinel, one of the loveliest and 
least satisfactory villages in America, whither we departed 
in the late summer of 1923. By a pleasant fatality I have 
always lived in beautiful places. And of these Carmel for 
splendor of surroundings is one of the most startling. Point 
Lobos, with its cliffs one mass of rock plants, the flaming 
marine gardens that glow at their feet, and the gigantic seas 
roaring in the glorious clefts, is beyond dream or descrip- 
tion. And the whole of that Coast, the great mad cedars, 
sequoia, and pine, beach and crag, mountain and sea, intoxi- 
cates the mind, though I confess that to me it has always 
appeared in a happier aspect than to Robinson Jeffers. No 
doubt my view is the shallower. 



INTERIM AND CRISIS 

But it is a mistake to live in a place where more than two 
or three are gathered together in the name of art or litera- 
ture, O Godl it was mediocre with its artistic-literary small 
talk, and the philosophy diluted from the thin intellectual 
bouillon of the Nation and the New Republic. You couldn't 
swing a cat under the pine-trees without knocking down a 
poetess, and it might have been a very good idea. There 
were of course fine people there, like Jimmy Hopper and 
Spohr the biologist, who worked hard and didn't ask you if 
you had seen their latest in Scribner's. And there were 
others, for instance, Burton Williams, an heroic cripple with 
a mind as direct as his body was distorted. But most of the 
mediocre life of the place was dominated by old maids of 
both sexes, who made considerable claims on the ground 
that they had once opened a volume of The Golden Bough 
or skimmed part of an essay by Havelock Ellis. This is tire- 
some to me, for when I say I have read a book, I mean I have 
read every word. I may not have understood it, but I have 
given it all the consideration of which I am capable. I can- 
not bear people who talk your ear off about "the Greeks," 
and get Socrates mixed up with Sophocles. Carmel had more 
than its fair share of that brand of intellectual. 

This infuriates me still in recollection, but it would not 
account for the melancholia I mean melancholia which 
descended upon me like a cloud in the lovely autumn of 
1923. I was perfectly married, I had three lovely children, I 
had enough money for our modest necessities. Ulug Beg was 
out. A new book had been accepted, another was under way. 
And yet two-thirds of my energy was being eaten up in 
ridiculous agonies which make me smile at their absurdity 
now and shudder at the recollection of the power they had 
then. I knew they were absurd. But there they were. I tried 
psychiatrists, exercise, alcohol. If I had only thought of 
opium! More than a year that strange fog was upon me. And 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the bravest thing I have ever done in my life was to keep 
working while the fox gnawed. 

The essence of such trouble is that one is ashamed of it, 
as Russian peasants are ashamed of a tumor. The mere fact 
that the anguish is absurd prevents one from speaking of it, 
and the thing thrives on secrecy. If one could speak, the 
aeration of the poisoned well would purify it. But you 
wouldn't be ill if you could do that. And the effort is beyond 
most courage. To the sufferer the more he suffers, the more 
it becomes impossible to vomit up the corrosion of his en- 
trails. Presently an emetic is indicated. 

Friends may do you good or evil. I was fortunate. If there 
was a thing in the world for which I had a bitter contempt 
in the spring of 1924, it was psycho-analysis, every aspect of 
it, and all three of its schools, I had made fun of it privately 
and in print. I had said that in thirty years Freud would be 
remembered "like Charcot today." The more depressed I 
became the more intransigent I grew with respect to all that 
rigmarole, which I freely compared with phrenology and 
homeopathy. To me it was witch-doctoring, and the mere 
suggestion of relief to imbeciles more than normally sug- 
gestible. But I had dear friends who did not think so, and 
had seen that sort of hostility before. I never have quite 
understood how they managed it, though part of it was a 
sort of pious fraud. At any rate early in 1925 I had been 
partly persuaded and partly tricked into committing myself 
into the hands of Dr. Jung. 

By the time this conversion had been achieved I had got 
out a second book, Ph. Ds> and was dreaming of a third 
which did not get into print for nine years. It was again a 
study in the Bernesque-Byronic and its hero was to be the 
greatest scoundrel of the times, d'Annunzio. Accordingly I 
went abroad to get as much information as I could about 
my quarry, and to discover if possible at "the House of the 



INTERIM AND CRISIS 

Interpreter" why I had plunged in such a slough of despond. 
Late in March, 1925, I went forlornly overseas. 

I hadn't been in Europe since 1911. And this Europe in 
no respect resembled anything I had ever known. I summed 
it up later by saying what was true in 1925, that the warliad 
brought it to pass that the Germans were polite, the French 
were rude, the Italians didn't beg, and the English spoke to 
you. The Germans have since reverted to their natural dis- 
courtesy. I went swiftly to Rome, where I spent April in a 
desperate struggle with the Italian tongue. I was as lonely 
as a man can be, and I could only stammer the beautiful 
language in which it seemed to me I made but disappoint- 
ing progress. Nevertheless I read the Divine Comedy right 
through and was pleased to note that I turned less and less 
to the English version on the opposite page. There are few 
greater experiences than that poem, even when read under 
my disadvantages. Not to have read it is like being a eunuch 
by your own choice. And I thank my Maker that however 
I staggered I knew the beauty and the pleasure. 

Much of the time I wandered about the city with a young 
architectural student, on whom I practised my Italian, and 
who pointed out to me some of the aspects of his art. Rome 
is easily the least attractive world-city, unless you look well 
beneath the surface, and it is increasingly so, as the savage 
crudities of fascist architecture impose themselves upon the 
decayed baroque, which, it must be admitted, in its high 
moments, has a sort of senile delicacy and grace. Baroque at 
its best makes me think of an elderly lady who has kept her 
figure, at its worst of an elderly lady who has not. The 
ancient fountains are lovely and the Forum, unless they 
plant the Ministry of Telegraphs in it, which they are very 
apt to do, will remain the place in Europe most exciting to 
the mind. Yet in spite of that, Rome is a hateful town, pro- 
vincial in spirit, and fully qualified to be the capital of the 
sort of empire whose center it is. In what other great city 

173 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

would a dramatic critic, reviewing a new play, point out, as 
an evidence of civilization, that there were quite a number 
of "smokings" in the first-night audience? That was in cold 
print in Tevere or // Popolo the morning after Buontem- 
pelli's charming Nostra Dea. 

An Italian youth who sat beside me at that performance, 
in which Marta Abba covered herself with really divine 
glory, confided to me that he was a student of the stage and 
particularly admired the great, native American drama he 
could not at first recollect the title Peg O' My Heart. Dur- 
ing an interminable intermission longer than any act, my 
connoisseur and I wandered in to the lobby. There we be- 
held the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance. It could per- 
fectly well have been Don Quixote, but I suspected that it 
was in reality Guglielmo Ferrero, and asked my chance 
acquaintance if it were not he. The young fellow had never 
heard of him, though Ferrero had been world-famous for at 
least twenty years. During the next act, something caused 
me to turn around. I looked full into the eyes of the real 
Italy less than a yard away, the Italy that does not come to 
Rome if it can help it. The eyes were the eyes of Pirandello, 
kind and piercing. If I had known that man, I might have 
forgotten the big, graceless, meretricious town. 

Whether I am a perpetual adolescent or no, the fact is that 
I like zoos, and Rome has a fine one. I discovered it one day 
in a fit of absent-mindedness and told a nice English old 
maid at the pension about it, when she admitted a similar 
weakness. Thereupon she admitted one I do not share. Why 
British old maids should at any time have been the infatu- 
ated admirers of Benito Mussolini I do not know. But the 
fact remains that he was at the time an object of their ad- 
miration and sympathy, even if one elderly island vestal did 
succeed in shooting him through the nose. My acquaintance 
asked me if I knew how to catch a glimpse of the Dictator. 
I hadn't the least idea. The next evening at dinner the lady 

174 



INTERIM AND CRISIS 

spoke to me. Her eyes were shining like those of a Virgin of 
the Annunciation. "I went to the zoo," she said, registering 
eternal gratitude, "and I saw Him in a cage, petting a 
tigress." In my opinion that tigress didn't know the mean- 
ing of the word opportunity. 

I cannot think my feeling about Rome was due entirely 
to depression of spirit. I had much pleasure there. I knew 
nice people. Walter Lowrie, the pastor of the American 
Church, was a wit if there ever was one, and the only clergy- 
man during one of whose sermons I have heard a ripple of 
pleasure run through the congregation. I don't mean a titter. 
They were properly pleased by whatever it was he said. 
Harry Miller turned up from San Francisco, literally emerg- 
ing from the tomb of Romulus, like an unexpected kitten 
from a conjuror's hat. The picnic at Ostia in a forsaken 
garden with Harry and his wife would take an evil taste out 
of anyone's mouth. A flagon of wine on an antique marble 
table in sight of the fascinating ruins, the mild Mediterra- 
nean wind, the sense of well-being it induced, that was all 
very nice indeed. But pleasant people and pleasant events 
have never destroyed for me the notion that Rome as it is is 
just about what fascist Italy deserves. And until Italy is fascist 
no more, in my sight there will always be something cramped, 
frightened, hushed, and repellent about the Eternal City. 

At the end of April a telegram came for me. And I knew 
it was time to meet the unknown, or better the unconscious, 
at Zurich. A day later I was once more in Switzerland, an 
invalid whose trouble was quite as much of the imagination 
as ever his tuberculosis had been. 



175 



XIII 



ZURICH 



ZURICH is in general much hated by American travelers. The 
bourgeois appearance of the place, the smug prosperity of 
the Bahnhofstrasse, the uninspired modern architecture, the 
rather dull ancient buildings, have to be got over. The out- 
skirts of the city, park slipping into legitimate wild woods, 
the lake, and the splendid rampart of the Glarneralp, make 
up for these matters. Nor do I know a city in Europe where 
more is doing in the mind. Practically every human being 
I met there was intelligent down to the very tram-drivers, 
one of whom seeing La Vita Nuova under my arm favored 
me with some succinct and illuminating remarks on Dante, 
to whom he was clearly devoted. Under no dictatorship will 
you find such a bookshop as Herr Ebell's. It may be that I 
exaggerate the force of living and unpretentious intellect 
which I felt in the place, for I had an awakening there 
myself. But to this day I feel grateful to the little city, as if 
the very buildings were responsible for benefits that were 
conferred upon me. The best hotel in the world might have 
something to do with it too. 

Dr. Jung himself was away at the moment of my arrival, 
but the lady, his principal assistant, who was to investigate 
me and my insolubilities, received me at once in her pleas- 

1*76 



ZURICH 

ant house on the Freiestrasse. And the strange business 
began immediately. 

Since nothing on earth could be more boring than such a 
case-history, I am not going into the details. It would be as 
dull as a stream of consciousness novel, and not unlike one. 
And I do not propose to inflict anything like that on a reader 
who might be capable of even more damaging comparisons. 
But a few casual comments may properly be made. 

In the first place, I don't think there is any relief in the 
world comparable to the first expectoration of your griefs. 
In my case it was so immediate that I was actually able to 
grin feebly when Miss W after reviewing my collection 
of inner horrors said with pardonable irony: "All this seems 
pretty infantile/ 1 For ten days thereafter I was in a sort of 
heaven. The fog of melancholy seemed to have blown away. 
To illustrate that fallacious euphoria would be beyond 
powers superior to mine. But the world shone in my sight. 
The wet grass of the tiny golf course by the hotel glowed 
with strange internal light. The crests of the Glarneralp, 
when rifts came in the cloud, were a revelation special to me. 
And the bursting spikes of the horsechestnuts, or the place- 
less cry of the bird who utters the word of fear, were part 
of a new world that I saw, felt, and heard with quickened 
and novel senses. 

I did not know that, in the slang of the science, I was 
"up." You cannot know that until you have been "down." 
But it was magnificent while it lasted. Too soon the whole 
edifice of hope tumbled about my ears, and I descended into 
a depression as black as hell, and as unreal as the exultation 
had been. To the uninitiated this must sound perfectly 
absurd and furthermore a complete confirmation of the 
prejudices which it is natural for the uninitiated to form. 
I don't blame the uninitiated. I had every one of those prej- 
udices once myself. And I am convinced that only by endur- 

177 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ing that strange rhythm of "up" and "down" can one arrive 
if at all at the suitable orientation. 

Nevertheless merely towering like an eagle or plunging 
like a stone won't do the business. Jung, that most delightful 
combination of an Olympic athlete, Plato the broad-browed, 
refined scientist, and dirt-farmer, has for a long time been a 
firm believer in the diagnostic and prognostic value of un- 
conscious drawing. The victim dwelling among untraveled 
ways, so to say, records his own history and progress. When 
a thing has been discovered, something may possibly be 
done about it. To the so-called practical man this will seem 
foolishness. But, as Whitehead remarked in a different con- 
nection: "The practical man is mistaken as he always is, 
when he neglects his natural function, the mastication of 
food which other people have prepared." Try as I would, I 
could not draw. And the sketches of what I saw in dream or 
daydream were no good to me. Accordingly I took my own 
line and attacked the problem in verse. And my brief book 
Animula Vagula is the record of my Saison en Enfer. Al- 
most every day the verses came, and, good or bad, they were 
different from anything that had come to me before. I could, 
I suppose, write a page of exegesis on every one of the four 
hundred lines. Nor do I think that such a comment would 
be without human interest. Nevertheless let no reader be 
alarmed. If any book of mine impressed people this did. 
They knew, whatever the nature of the experience, that it 
was a genuine one, which made further definition unneces- 
sary, and they were correspondingly kind. Even the review- 
ers were practically unanimous. I do not remember a dis- 
senting voice. And I was particularly touched by the notice 
of an undergraduate at Princeton, who went all out on it, 
with the delightful sympathy of twenty-one. Also I have 
reason to believe that it still holds attention, for though 
published twelve years ago and long out of print, it costs like 
blue blazes in the second-hand market. 

178 



ZURICH 

While Animula Vagula grew under my hand, I passed 
along the foreordained sine curve of analysis, "now dancing 
merry, now like to dee." Matters of moment from my un- 
known darkness came to light and even had their pendants 
and correspondencies in what, with unconscious humor, is 
called the real world. Into these it is not necessary to go. 
They are my business and I will not be one of those writers 
who spit out their mystery, as if it were necessarily impor- 
tant. Gray's remark that anyone might write an interesting 
book if he would set down everything, has caused a lot of 
trouble for it has become a fourfold shield for egotism with 
a T. The reflection of a stream of consciousness is only 
interesting, if there are fish in the stream, preferably trout. 
And barring genius, the dead cats which in general float 
down such currents are no more attractive in a book than 
they are in a drain. 

If I were asked what definite good a painful and fre- 
quently highly disagreeable process did me, I should reply 
as follows. In the first place it revealed to me what not every- 
one knows, that thought and intuition are not the same 
thing, and that I was in the habit of substituting the second 
for the first. Other people frequently make the contrary 
error. Whichever mistake one habitually makes, that way 
madness lies. In the second place my analysis destroyed the 
materialistic theatrical scenery of my mind. Almost every- 
one in my generation lived on a stage where it was tacitly 
assumed that everything not only could be but would be 
explained on a centimeter-gram-second basis. It may be so, 
but remains to be proved. Meanwhile it is dangerous and 
disingenuous to take it for granted. In the third place, when 
that pure assumption tottered and fell, I quite suddenly 
found myself looking at matters that because of it had lost 
their vitality for me, with excited eyes and heat in my 
brain. It was like being a Renaissance Man with a new- 
found Greek manuscript. Better yet it was like being a 

179 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Twentieth-Century Man who had escaped into the novelty 
of things. Fable and myth resumed their beauty. No longer 
steel-engraving allegories, they become living symbols of 
what man had not yet expressed. Ideas that had been static, 
like moths in a museum showcase, fluttered in their own 
tropic glen of fantasy. Nor can I make clear how happy this 
made me. The taste and the tang came back. There is a lot 
of difference between reading about Endymion in Bullfinch 
and reading about him in Keats. 

The skeptic, of course, will say that what happened to me 
would have happened to me as a result of any exciting altera- 
tion of environment and any impact of powerful personali- 
ties on an uncritical nature. I cannot accept that verdict. 
The effect was too radical to be so easily explained. I had 
known many environments and had felt strong personal im- 
pacts before. The new system opened the world again, and 
unloosed such powers as I had. I do not cease to be grateful. 
And no amount of skepticism is capable of shaking that 
conviction. 

In behalf of the skeptic, however, these things ought to 
be said. At first blush no subject looks more louche and sus- 
pect than analysis. The cryptic jargon, which I personally 
detest, and much of which is unnecessary, the furious dissen- 
sions of the schools, the mysticism (only apparent) so offen- 
sive to the illogical, all these things make one see readily the 
point of view of the materialistic psychologists, who stick 
to wandering mazes in which unhappy rats can find no way. 
Analytical psychology, like other branches of medicine, is as 
yet more an art than a science. Nevertheless I think the gen- 
eral drift of it is now pretty clear. The existence of the un- 
conscious and some of the laws that govern it are I think as 
much demonstrated as they need to be. But the skeptic has 
a talking-point, if he considers the incredible quantity of 
conversational tosh that surrounds the subject. The whole 
business fascinates the defeated and the unsuccessful, who 

180 



ZURICH 

seem to think that a good analyst can make a silk purse out 
of a sow's ear. Whereas every good analyst knows that no 
third-rate painter ever became a Rembrandt by getting over 
his mother-fixation. The painter might, however, learn to 
paint with less affectation, and better yet steel himself to 
become a bank clerk. When everything has been admitted, 
it seems to me still apparent that there is a new, important, 
and interesting thing under the sun. 

One word, however, not to the skeptic, but to the believer. 
Analysis is incredibly painful. It is quite true, as the wise 
say, that it is laboratory work and the real trouble comes 
afterward. But in this form of vivisection, no anesthetics can 
be employed. And a scalpel in the surgery can hurt just as 
much as a dagger in the street. No one in his senses ought to 
undertake analysis, unless what he is undergoing is worse. 
Lots of maladjustments are no more than a sensitivity to 
poison-ivy. To spend six months in a mud-bath, because of 
a mild rash, would be altogether out of proportion, par- 
ticularly if the mud is mixed with hell-fire. I do not see how 
I could have escaped it. Anyhow I didn't. I got rid of a 
morbid growth, but how much better never to have had the 
growth in the first place! 

Life under such circumstances was bound to produce 
singularities and certainly did in my case. I grew quarrel- 
some and bitter to the extent that it still seems odd to me 
that I never excited the unfavorable notice of the Swiss 
police. Everyone about me was in the same condition. And 
everyone was insanely confidential or insanely reticent. One 
burst with prejudice for or against other people. And no 
thin ray of common sense or humor penetrated our dark 
spirits. One lady of my acquaintance hated a man so, whom 
she barely knew, that she used to kick his hat around the 
floor when she found it hanging in her analyst's ante-room. 
She'd have done it to his head, if she had dared. Incidentally 
she is as nice a person as one could hope to know. If one of 

181 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the unhappy trusted you, such a story as would stagger Leo- 
pold Bloom would come from cultivated lips. And awfully 
queer things happened in public. I can't explain this but it 
took place. I myself in presence of six witnesses read what 
was in another's mind as glibly as any charlatan that does it 
for his living. I couldn't do it before. I couldn't do it again. 
But if thought was ever transferred it was then. Also it was 
an absolutely shocking moment for everyone concerned, 
though the items I produced were wholly innocent. 

Whether because anyone is exciting under a strain or for 
other reasons, most of the people in Jung's seminar inter- 
ested me enormously. I could write a book about one lady 
whose critical mind and gentle heart pulled me through 
dozens of ebony-black hours. But I feel certain she wouldn't 
care about it. There were, however, among the faithful in 
my time two men who have since died who seem to me 
worth describing a little. 

Oscar A. H. Schmitz was a very well-known Austrian au- 
thor, a thoroughly nice man, and I am happy to say my 
friend. He was half-Jew and horribly neurotic about it, as 
he well might be, if, with the morbid intuition of the psy- 
chologically disturbed, he foresaw the hateful developments 
of the next ten years. He was much older than I and had 
known Wilde and the Yellow Book clique in the early nine- 
ties. And his book The Land Without Music is a pretty 
good picture of the last kick of the Victorians. Schmitz had 
an odd peculiarity. He spoke English astonishingly well, but 
read it with difficulty. He and I were very sympathetic, and 
it was he who first revealed to me the poems of Christian 
Morgenstern, a writer as nearly in the category of Lear and 
Lewis Carroll as it once was possible for a German to be. It 
is utterly impossible now. We had great fun together in our 
occasional lucid intervals, which happily coincided a num- 
ber of times. But he inadvertently taught me something in 
this fashion. He had invited me to tea with him in the gar- 

182 



ZURICH 

dens of the Baur-au-lac, a pleasant place on the lake front. I 
have always had a passion for birds, and when a peculiarly 
exquisite male chaffinch began picking up the crumbs which 
fell from the table, I was pleased by the creature's beauty and 
confidence, and pointed it out to Schmitz, who, I suppose, 
must have been rather short-sighted. If I had indicated the 
presence of a mastodon, he could hardly have appeared more 
astonished. His eyes popped from his head. "Never," he said, 
"have I seen one before." As the chaffinch is one of the com- 
monest of Swiss birds and will come right into the house, 
unless you keep the door shut, this seemed improbable, but 
I only said something polite about birds in general and ex- 
pected no sequel. 

Nevertheless a year or two later what still seems to me an 
odd one came. Schmitz had published his memoirs. And a 
friend told me I had better get hold of Ergo Sum, because I 
would find myself in an odd role. I don't read German 
easily any more, but I looked up the passage, and I still 
think it as astonishing a bit of transmogrification as I ever 
stumbled on. That solitary chaffinch had undone his reason 
and inflamed his imagination. Paraphrased, his version of 
the tiny episode was like this. He had encountered in 1925 
an American poet in Zurich at Jung's seminar, who had 
talked of his fondness for birds. (So far so good. I had even 
told him of a mild superstition of mine that they bring me 
luck.) He had invited this exotic individual to tea with him. 
No sooner had they sat down in the hotel garden than birds 
of every kind (aller art) surrounded the American who deliv- 
ered himself of some very deep wisdom indeed. Encouraged, 
the birds now sat upon the head and shoulders of the 
stranger, who at this point bore a startling resemblance to 
the mystical figure of a primitive man (Urmensch) in one of 
Schmitz's own visions. After reading that passage I had a 
mild sense of understanding what it must be like to be a 
glamour-girl. But it was an awful lot to get out of one 

183 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

chaffinch picking up crumbs. That cock-eyed account of 
what never happened has made me ponder on the validity 
of personal impressions in other autobiographies. It may be 
I misread him as he misread me, that the fantasy that paced 
with reality eventually usurped the throne of fact. 

Schmitz was a famous man in his time and region, but 
George Beckwith's name was writ on water. Gary de Angulo 
introduced me to him at one of Jung's seminars, and for 
once in my life I hated at first sight. My normal course is to 
like 'em first and hate 'em afterwards. This time it was 
reversed. As we shook hands, his patrician beak was in the 
air and he looked down it at me in such a manner that it 
would have been fun to kill him on whatever side of what- 
ever barricade. He glanced at me venomously from time to 
time during the lecture and the subsequent not too brilliant 
discussion. At the first opportunity I fled so as to escape any 
further contact with the hateful creature. I had got thirty 
yards into the Froebelstrasse, when a voice called my name. 
I turned automatically and Beckwith came hot-foot up. This 
is what he said: "I looked at your clothes and thought I had 
never seen anything so awful. I heard you laugh and thought 
I had never heard a more ghastly sound. Then I saw you had 
a beautiful mouth and decided to give you another chance." 
There might be two schools of thought on all three points, 
but I laughed at him till passers-by turned around and the 
tears came to my eyes. He absolutely looked embarrassed, 
but finally I was able to suggest some beer. A more delight- 
ful lunatic never walked a planet not distinguished for 
sanity. A more unhappy man never stepped habitually too 
hard on the gas, nor on the whole a more strictly honorable 
one. Into his intimate history I shall not go, but there was 
nothing to be ashamed of in it and a great deal to pity. He 
was I think the only man I ever knew who said whatever 
came into his head with complete effrontery and perfect 
impunity. The last phrase isn't quite true, because a famous 



ZURICH 

lady once slugged him with a vanity-case in a Paris bus. 
And if he said what he said he said, he had it coming to him. 
He was quite troubled by the episode, seeming not to realize 
that if private idiosyncrasy is to be revealed at all, the person 
concerned is apt to reserve the privilege of naming the time 
and the place. But George's talk was a revelation of himself 
and like as not of you, and it was worth going far to hear. 

George had the Pucklike trick of turning up from behind 
a tree somewhere. For years he never appeared except un- 
expectedly. And I think he regarded a mildly dramatic en- 
trance as a score for him. He had what amounted to a queer 
curse on him. He was immensely attractive to women, but 
there was a time-limit on it to be exact ten days. Every 
woman, meeting him for the first time, would tell you how 
fascinating he was and ten days later give you to under- 
stand that he was Judas Iscariot or a king cobra on her front 
lawn. Never to my knowledge did he do anything to deserve 
these distinctions. But the queer characteristic was the origin 
of as queer a story as I have heard, though Beckwith I think 
had never noted the quality, and merely regarded himself as 
a naturally unhappy creature, hopelessly ill adapted to this 
world, which was God's truth. He told me the story himself. 

One of the English professional beauties (we will call her 
Lady Diana Sealyham) came to Paris, which Beckwith then 
occupied in great force. What was practically a grande pas- 
sion was immediately in full flower. Ten days later, true to 
his fate, such a quarrel arose between them as most people 
only read about, and they parted at the high pitch of fury. 
Next day Lady Di, who must have been nicer than most 
professional beauties and couldn't imagine what the quarrel 
was about, telephoned him that she was sorry because of the 
bitterness between them, and wouldn't he take a walk in the 
Bois with her to talk things over. Beckwith had one of those 
loathsome Italian dogs that have been compared to worn- 
out blacking-brushes, and he took the beast to meet the 

185 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

beauty. In a few minutes the peace-conference was in the 
usual state of peace-conferences. And the dog had disap- 
peared. With less than his customary chivalry and still less 
reason, he blamed Lady Di for his loss. And after a splendid 
burst of bitter recrimination they parted. Beckwith, much 
grieved by the loss of his thoroughly offensive pet, spent hun- 
dreds of francs on advertising but without result. Then one 
evening he got tight with a chance acquaintance, and in his 
cups lamented his bereavement. The other bade him be of 
good cheer, for he knew a witch on the Left Bank who could 
find anything. Together they sought out the enchantress and 
explained the case. The witch told Beckwith to boil one of 
his shirts, with three onions and, when the garment turned 
pink, to remove it from the fire, which would compel the 
guilty to return the lost dog. I don't know whether or no a 
shirt boiled with three onions will turn pink. But George 
said he performed the incantation on the gas-stove in his 
thoroughly modernistic apartment. The whole thing is a 
travesty of Huysmans. 

Next day Lady Di, oblivious that the Prince of the Powers 
of the Air had been invoked against her, went for a walk 
with a young woman her friend, who knew neither Beck- 
with nor his dog. They passed a coal-yard from which 
emerged a truck. On the seat beside the driver sat the hate- 
ful Italian hound. Indignation still rankled in Lady Di's 
breast, and she said to herself: "Though it were ten thou- 
sand times George Beckwith's dog, it may stay on that truck 
till Doomsday for all of me." She and her friend walked on. 
A few minutes later Lady Di's conscience smote her. She 
turned back to the coal-yard, and for three hours she and 
the long-suffering friend waited until the truck returned. 
Lady Di claimed the dog. The truck-driver was sure the 
Lady was mistaken. He had had the dog always. Something 
like a scene began and a policeman approached to investi- 
gate. At that point the dog played up, fawning in an ecstasy 

186 



ZURICH 

of affection on Lady Di's friend, whom he had never before 
seen in his wretched life. The policeman handed down a 
judgment of Solomon, called the truck-driver a mauvais 
sujet, and delivered the disgusting creature to the two girls. 
Lady Di, as the witch had predicted, returned the dog to 
Beckwith. 

This would have conquered me, but not George. He 
remained angry and he reasoned that if the witch could do 
so well she could do better. Accordingly he sought her out 
and told her that, though he wished no permanent injury to 
Lady Di, he thought a pimple on the beauty's cheek, to last 
say a fortnight, would do him and her a world of good. "As 
easy as eating," said the witch and gave him an appropriate 
charm. Three days later it worked. A magnificent boil 
formed on the end of his own nose, the first he had ever 
suffered from. 

The bothersome point about the story is this. If it be false, 
which it clearly must be, how and why did he make it up? 

But I was very sorry when someone told me that another 
speeding car had come to grief outside of Los Angeles. 



187 



XIV 



CHANGE 



I FLEW from Zurich to London. Not since the war had I 
been up, and the great Handley-Page made me feel as if I 
were flying in a cathedral, though it was a pygmy beside 
contemporary monsters. With my usual luck I had beautiful 
weather over the channel. The coast of England was clear all 
the way to Plymouth. There is no nobler sight than the nar- 
row seas from five thousand feet up; and I got the full 
benefit, for the pilot, contrary to Imperial Airways regula- 
tions, invited me to sit beside him. It gratified me somehow 
more than more important things have done. 

London was just what I needed after Zurich. For in Zurich 
madness had been carried to the point of sanity. And in 
London sanity is clearly carried to the point of madness. For 
all its stodginess I love the place, and never fail to be amused 
there. The galleries are glorious, and the theaters are gen- 
erally so unreasonably bad that one doesn't have to go to 
them, always a great point with me. But if London were 
sacked and every painting and statue carried off to Berlin or 
Tokio it would still be a place of ineffable charm on account 
of people in it, whose like will not be found in Berlin or 
Tokio for a thousand years and who make you forget an 
architecture that would disgrace Rochester, N. Y. I don't 

188 



CHANGE 

mean just the wise and great, though they swarm. But the 
place is lousy with the cultivated and well bred. How they 
endure the grossness of their surroundings I cannot under- 
stand, any more than I can understand how they can talk on 
the superiority of their civilization to ours under their 
Bovril signs. In common with everyone else who ever ob- 
served them, I believe their pathetic incapacity to admit the 
existence of any viewpoint other than their own is a great 
part of their charm. Naivet when it causes no inconvenience 
is apt to be fascinating, and though the word is well known 
to be French, the thing is unquestionably an English inven- 
tion. Americans are frequently ignorant, but seldom naif in 
the grand British manner. It is beyond our powers to 
assume that there is only one possible way of looking at any- 
thing. But they cannot speak without affording examples. 
Thus I have heard a man of the very first literary distinction 
inveigh against the indecency of a boy of fifteen who wore 
white knickerbockers instead of white slacks when he played 
at Wimbledon. Happily the child beat a number of persons 
who objected to his costume. But only the exceptional Eng- 
lishman escapes from the heritage of Podsnap, and generally 
only in exalted moments. The proper thing to do is to recog- 
nize the limitation and derive as much discreet mirth from 
it as possible. Then all will be well. 

Anyhow it was with me then and afterwards. No one has 
enjoyed himself more anywhere, for choice Withyham in 
Sussex. Mutatis mutandis, the region is so like my own 
South County "for mild air, pleasant speech, oak, beech, and 
slowness," that I forgive the splendor of the guelder-rose 
which they have and we have not. But then we have laurel. 
At a cottage close by Buckhurst I stepped right into Jane 
Austen and have no occasion to regret it. Graceful talk 
and kind manners are noble things. Anyone who cares may 
find at the end of Guinea Fowl a group of sonnets that to- 

189 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

gether express reasonably well what I felt and feel about the 
England daily insulted in our press. 

My mother and I toured England together while my 
father departed to the Troad where he expected to find 
evidence in support of some notions he had about Homer. 
I am glad for reasons which will appear that he realized that 
ambition and had his fun. We drifted through southern 
England and the borders of Wales in a car from Harrod's, 
that was driven by a chauffeur who looked like a Trollope 
archdeacon. Gaine was his name. And he had beautiful 
manners and not the faintest appearance of having led a 
life of paralyzing adventure for a large part of sixty-four 
years. It was at some Red Lion or White Horse that I came 
down one morning to consult about the day's journey. I 
found him conversing with a nondescript gypsy in Span- 
ish. Naturally I inquired where he had mastered that 
tongue. "Peru, Sir. 1879, in their navy, Sir." "There was 
a ship," said I, "the Huascar" "Served in her, Sir, in the 
battle, Sir." It seemed a bit thick. He had been in the most 
spectacular sea-fight of these times, with the iron-clads only 
fifty yards apart and a god-awful coup de grace by board- 
ing. He had been a commissioned officer in the Royal Navy 
during the war. And he was chauffeuring Americans for 
Harrod's. Two years later I tried to get him again. The 
oily-haired cockney clerk told me that they had fired him 
"for insolence to an American party." What the particular 
Americans were like, to whom Gaine was insolent, I will 
not try to imagine. But my blood boils when I think of a 
department store discharging a man who had been in one 
and a half Thermopylae because of the injured dignity of a 
profiteer from South Bend. 

That was a wonderful voyage. We had sweet weather. It 
is good to look down from a hanging wood at "the twisted 
pink chimneys of Compton-Winyeats." But never again will 
I enter such a house under such circumstances. No doubt 

190 



CHANGE 

the proprietors need the money. But the sense that they are 
fleeing helplessly from room to room as the invaders ad- 
vance, is too unpleasant. At Gloucester we saw the Bellows' 
once more after twenty-six years; John Bellows was dead. 
But his wife and his son William were as cordial as of old. 
It was then that a characteristic remark, in a tone of deepest 
sympathy, was uttered apropos of the death of the Orator of 
the Platte: ''And so you've lost Mr. Bryan?" I wished Bryan 
no evil, but in his youth he had set the rich against the poor 
and in his age he stirred up the ignorant against the wise. 
I did not feel the loss as bitterly as England expected I 
might. 

We drifted pleasantly from one cathedral town to the 
next, pausing here and there as it pleased us. Tintern with 
its arches of stone cobweb is the most delicately satisfactory 
ruin I know. And it is small wonder that having seen it, a 
giant should prove his greatness. One felt that even a dwarf 
might. In Oxford I saw the naked barbarity of which the 
English are capable. On the bulletin board of the Mitre 
Tavern appeared a notice of the British Canine Protective 
Association. It announced that on such a day, on such a 
street in the city, a garden fete would be held in the interests 
of the society, and that to make the gaiety complete a gentle- 
man would recite poems by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. I had 
not been aware that that particular Tenth Muse was one of 
the lost causes of which Oxford is said to be the home. One 
must take the good with the bad everywhere, but the Eng- 
lish should be more careful than they always are, before they 
point the finger of amused scorn at provincial bad taste out- 
side their island. Nor have they, I think, found out what to 
look for among us as well as we have found out what to look 
for among them. They do not know our wild rivers and 
naked mountains, only our night-clubs. Yet for all their 
peculiarities, what pleasanter land? 

I grew anxious about my mother on that journey. She 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

seemed tired toward the end of it and complained of a 
numbness in one hand. The little doctor in London pooh- 
poohed it. But I was not convinced and was in that state of 
vague alarm which arises when you can't put your finger on 
anything definite and say: "This is what I don't like." A few 
days after we got home, she suffered a paralytic shock. She 
lived voiceless through four terrible weeks just long enough 
to see and recognize my father. The Turkish telegraph is a 
dreadful thing in time of trouble. It took us ten days to find 
him not more than a hundred and fifty miles away from a 
world-city. He died two months later literally of grief. Over 
them my sister and I set up a stone with these verses: 

Beauty, truth, and rarity, 
Grace in all simplicity, 
Here enclosed, in cinders lie. 

I will say no more than that they were lovely in their lives 
and I loved them. Everything was changed. There was no 
one hereafter to whom to turn for advice, for assistance, for 
that older sympathy "that will pardon all things and believe 
a great many." That it happens to everyone does not make 
it less unique for the individual. It is as important as being 
born or dying and not unlike both. 

Suddenly I lived with lawyers and grew horribly respon- 
sible to others about money and land. It is a hateful aspect 
of modern life that people, at a moment when they are least 
able to put up with it, are subjected to every refined nuisance 
that bureaucrats can think up. In our case the difficulties 
were merely routine, but I still feel a resentment, as I re- 
member the rigmarole of affidavits and papers. As a special 
grace-note dangerous illness developed in my family. And 
nine times I crossed from coast to coast that year. I spent 
far too much time alone in a house that was empty of what 
had made it beautiful. And I hardly saw the joke when the 
redcaps at Chicago grinned broadly, seeing me descend from 

192 



CHANGE 

or board the Overland yet once more. Yet somehow things 
got straightened out after six months of what is called busi- 
ness and I felt as if the new-balanced world on hinges hung. 

In June of 1926 I delivered the Phi Beta Kappa poem at 
Harvard. This was something of a feather in my cap, and 
it went off well. I had my come-uppance within a few hours. 
The poem which I read at the luncheon of the society in 
lieu of a speech was apparently diverting only to me. And it 
had lost much of its original brightness even in my sight 
before I galloped to the last line. I learned something right 
there. It is painful to learn, but necessary to know, that you 
must never read the wrong poem. The account of the awful 
dinner in Boston when Mark Twain did not amuse the 
Brahmins is something that I read with shuddering sym- 
pathy. 

In the autumn of 1926 we moved from California to 
Peace Dale and a new life began. The empty house came 
alive with children. And the South County of Rhode Island 
is good country. The Doric tang of the only slightly nasal 
English was pleasant to my ear. And there is nothing evil in 
walking in the same woods as a father, where you once 
walked as a child. Animula Vagula was out and I was pleased 
by the reactions of its little audience. The Legend of Quin- 
cibald was beginning to take a sort of shape. And the 
Furioso, though only a couple of cantos along, was definitely 
on the ways. Life was simple but intensely pleasant. 

Also that year I did one of the very few things I have 
ever done which I should call wise in the expectation of 
being agreed with. I built for my wife and myself a studio 
apart from the house but only a few steps away, that was 
designed for writing, for painting, and for music. More 
happiness has come to us from that little building than I am 
able to describe. Only one thing that I should call definitely 
unpleasant has ever happened in that room, a violent quar- 
rel between two men, with me as a sort of preserver of the 

193 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

peace. And that would have been magnificently funny, if I 
had not been troubled by the origin of the dispute. The 
room gives me a thrill of pleasure every time I enter it, 
even if it is only to pay the bills. What it has given us in 
leisure, in seclusion, in opportunity is inestimable. Every 
family needs such a place and I bless the instinct that made 
me build it. 

That was a good period. Life had novel aspects and new 
interests, yet it was agreeably regular. There was always 
writing, without which I should be lost indeed, but 1927 
remains in my mind as the sort of year when there was a kind 
of ideal normality about existence, when things in their nat- 
ural course had the good taste to occur in a manner to suit 
me. As a matter of fact, I did have a lot of anxiety, but for 
some reason those difficulties have grown dimmer than prob- 
lems perhaps less serious and certainly further removed in 
time. It may be they loom less because of a European voy- 
age which is the subject of the next chapter. The journey 
has several reasons to stand by itself. And it is slavish to 
bow down and woship even such a dangerous deity as 
Chronology. 

Troubles not my own took me to Europe again in the 
Spring of 1928, but I am ingenious about handing myself a 
good time while other matters are pending. One of the inci- 
dental diversions I should not have chosen, unless pushed, 
but I am glad I saw the Grand National, in spite of sharing 
the views of a former Shah of Persia. He, it will be remem- 
bered, on a visit to England said something to the effect that 
Allah created one horse to run faster than another and why 
the excitement. The start was beautiful. A straight shaft of 
sunlight through a rift in stormy Constable clouds made the 
butterfly colors blaze against the soaked green. And I dare 
say the carnage at Becher's Brook, where seven horses came 
down on top of Easter Hero, had elements of pity and terror. 
Tipperary Tim winning when Billy Barton fell at the last 

194 



CHANGE 

hedge was good theater. But that two hundred thousand 
people should come from the uttermost parts of the sea for 
such a purpose is not to be explained as far as I am con- 
cerned. One touch of irony in the affair concerned another 
oriental potentate. The Amir of Afghanistan, with his suite, 
walked past the grandstand, and was cheered to the echo by 
all England. Two years later I saw him with his beautiful 
wife and children in the dining-room of a hotel in Florence. 
He looked like a man of affairs recovering from too much 
business and had some reason, for he was deposed and in 
exile. No crowd of two hundred thousand English would 
ever cheer him again. I suppose he too is bored by the 
recollection of that Grand National. 

There were other and better amusements in that brief 
flight. I have grown to detest the theater. I would rather 
read. But I will go to see the Beggar's Opera, to me the 
finest thing of its kind, any time, anywhere, without a 
whimper. I know nothing that combines so well the pretty, 
the exalted, the wildly humorous, and the delightfully an- 
imal. The beggar's vision of Polly and MacHeath is as much 
a dream of the race, in other words an authentic myth, as 
the legend of Cupid and Psyche. It is not on so high a level. 
But we need to know all levels. People who think of him 
at all are apt to think of Gay as a light and fanciful poet. 
Certainly none has trodden more delicately. But that alone 
would not account for the vitality of the piece, whose quips 
have for the most part lost all meaning for us. Anything that 
runs sixteen hundred nights, two hundred years after it was 
written, has got something more. And Gay's feet are on the 
ground of human realities like Shakespeare before him. Nor 
can one be too grateful for the untrammeled treatment of 
subjects, which, in spite of, or perhaps because of, our 
factitious outspokenness, are still under veils and the leaf 
of the fig. Gay, though the top of eighteenth-century ele- 
gance, had also the native decency of the good savage. Lady 

195 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Chatterly and Mrs. Bloom are sick and thwarted, and the 
men of Lawrence and Joyce are worse. But MacHeath, 

"Ready to twitch the nymph's last garment off" 

was and is sound and satisfactory. He and Polly will be 
agreeable and significant figures to healthy minds till Dooms- 
day, and, as the lady remarked, till rather late in the after- 
noon on that occasion. 

It was on this trip that for an odd purpose I sought out a 
direct, and, if it were possible, a legitimate, descendant of 
Gay's Polly. The lady in question manages a famous hotel 
on Jermyn Street, and is known to gods and men as Rosa 
Lewis. There are very few persons whom I have encountered 
for a brief moment who have made such a hit with me. She 
breathes a kindness that asks no questions, and there was 
never a string to her charity. I sent up my card and was 
ushered into the presence by a fairy-tale dwarf. The great 
lady, as she herself expressed it, "was all in a muck of sweat," 
but she introduced me to a battered elderly woman whose 
name made me jump. With her Rosa left me a few moments 
while she changed. It made me feel queer, for the old crea- 
ture was the sister of a great American lawyer, the aunt of 
a great cabinet minister, and the mother of a famous artist. 
Her husband had been the friend of Stephen Crane. But one 
did not need to be told that she now had only one friend in 
the world. That friend, however, would do pretty well. I 
succeeded in keeping off all the subjects that raced through 
my head, as I talked with that old lady. Presently Rosa re- 
turned and over a bottle of champagne gave me as sensible 
advice about the matter of my visit as could be desired. That 
settled, we went for a walk. The theater crowd in the Hay- 
market stared at her as if she were a maniac, because she had 
no wrap over her evening gown. And it pleased me to see 
that she had not the faintest sense of their existence. Never 
in her life had she done anything to propitiate the conven- 

*$> infi # 



CHANGE 

tional mind, and no one's opinion meant anything to her. 
She may have been in her way quite different from Queen 
Victoria, but no one ever left a better taste in my mouth. 
A few days later I was in Zurich with an even more vari- 
ous character. Dr. Jung has a camp up the lake, and there I 
spent several days with him. It was the first time I had seen 
him in his private capacity, as a friend rather than as his 
patient. And heaven-sent it was. The more I think of him 
the more he seems to me the most remarkable animal I have 
ever known at all well. The tremendous body, the more tre- 
mendous mind, the huge eater and drinker, the huge imag- 
iner and thinker, might make you feel inferior and helpless. 
But he induces a current in you when you are with him so 
that you are at your best and gayest, because your powers 
feel quickened and enlivened. The atmosphere is better 
when he's around. His mirth is an earthquake, and scien- 
tific curiosity makes me yearn to witness his wrath as a 
bystander. I have seen him distinctly miffed, when the palpa- 
ble and concrete horror of his invective distressed two thor- 
oughly sweet Swiss ladies, who visibly feared that my trans- 
atlantic innocence might be corrupted. To sail with him for 
long mornings on the lake, to eat the strange delicious dishes 
over which he had brooded like a wizard at his caldron, 
and to listen to him wholly at my ease, gave me that singular 
pleasure which can only be had from a great work of nature. 
Of course there was scarcely an idea in my head that I was 
aware of having concealed from him, and in a sense I knew 
nothing of him whatever. But that is a good relation when 
one's confidence is perfect in the man one has not feared to 
trust. 



XV 



THE #OAD TO FLORENCE 



IN THE spring of 1927 my wife and I sailed for Europe with 
several definite objects. I wished to finish up some loose 
ends with Jung. And a plan dating back twenty years was 
coming into being. In 1907 I had walked with my father 
down from Fiesole to Florence. It was a gorgeous evening 
and the lovely slopes were glowing with yellow light. In that 
hour I said to myself, "Sometime I shall live here." It was a 
silent promise, but unlike others I have made, I made it 
good. 

A later motive helped to justify the earlier one. The 
Furioso, which was still only in small part on paper, needed 
far greater knowledge of Italian, of Italians, and of Italy 
than I possessed. In Florence it might be possible to reduce 
my ignorance under pleasant circumstances. Accordingly we 
intended to spy out the nakedness of the land. 

That engaging creature Philip Guedalla was on the 
steamer. His conversation is on the whole as entertaining as 
the next man's, whether in company or a deux. We had a 
mild dispute about American films, which I heartily dislike 
as a rule. But I wasn't going to be put down, and my pa- 
triotic hackles rose. I made some fairly tart remark to the 
effect that vulgarity had been noticed in England. "Yes," he 

^ 108 ^ 



THE ROAD TO FLORENCE 

said, "forty centuries of vulgarity look down upon us/' I 
like that for the old reason that it is so true. 

I worked hard and pleasantly for a month in Zurich, and 
at the end of it we were picked up by friends and whirled 
over the Alps. The passes were barely open. And the moun- 
tains had some strange novelty about them, as if they had 
just been born, or were a happy thought of an ingenious 
creator, who had hit on it the night before. They gave out 
an absolute effluence of spring "that you could have put in 
a bottle/' We stopped for the night in Milan after covering 
the twenty-six miles from Stresa to the city in twenty-five 
minutes. Never in my life have I been so glad to see "that 
mixture of a wedding-cake and a railway-station" which is 
Milan Cathedral. I blessed every buttress that we were alive 
to see it. Next day we passed through Bologna and over the 
beautiful pass, one of the loveliest drives in the world, to 
Florence. No one for some reason has ever written of the 
Futa Pass except Aldous Huxley. But if there is anything 
more magnificent than the Bad Lands of the Apennines 
where the wheat stops short at the edge of the poisoned clay, 
I don't know it. The huge Perugino-background vistas, the 
heights crowned by chapel or castle, the lowering Gibraltar 
of Pietramala, the contrast of desert and sown, make up the 
greatest sort of view, the sort where man is visible in nature, 
where his hand has automatically emphasized the gigantic 
and unalterable. 

Florence is a city famous for many reasons, for archi- 
tecture, for painting, for poetry, for music. But one distinc- 
tion it possesses which I do not remember to have seen 
mentioned. It is the smallest of world-cities and has at once 
the advantages of an out-of-the-way town and a great cap- 
ital. Although decisions affecting nations are no longer 
taken there, they were once. And the atmosphere of them is 
about the place to this day. It may not be a good thing for 
a city to live on its memories, but Florence's are very good 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

ones. Men and women of the utmost interest are continually 
in a town hardly half the size of Buffalo, almost as if some- 
thing tremendous were about to happen. The nice part is 
that it never does. In the course of a season every musician 
worth hearing will be there, Casals with his 'cello or Furcht- 
wangler with his baton. Painters, poets, statesmen go and 
come. Ambassadors and Kings' mistresses resume acquaint- 
ance. If you wish you may discover Lloyd George in a gallery 
or Winston Churchill sketching in a garden, though why 
you should wish I do not know. And Thomas Mann will be 
looked on askance by two or three Sitwells on the Torna- 
buoni. The famous and notorious rub shoulders at Doney's, 
and one never knows when a Turkish princess or a financial 
big shot may produce amusement or ennui. 

We house-hunted diligently in the enchanting place and 
finally pitched on what would suit us, one of five villas on 
the estate of an Englishman halfway up the hill toward 
Fiesole. The houses were perched on the rim of an enormous 
hollow podere planted with vines and olives, that reached 
like a green hand into the bosom of the city. In the depth 
of that valley the landlord had built a swimming-pool and 
a tennis court for our friends the Fausts, who had a villa 
opposite. Their children and ours would have the play- 
ground of a dream. It was just an impossible situation. Our 
villa was a humble affair as such things go in Florence, but 
it always seemed as big as the Grand Terminal to me. It 
had been the mere outbuildings of the vast palace adjoin- 
ing, and part of it was a deconsecrated thirteenth-century 
chapel. The big drawing-room had been the orangery. And 
all of it was delightful. The whole house made you think 
of the proverb about what a bride should wear. 

Something old and something new, 
Something borrowed, something blue. 

The borrowed part was the plumbing. And for the last item, 

200 



THE ROAD TO FLORENCE 

I fear our unhappy houseboys had subsequently many a 
dismal dance about the furnace blue. The bargain was 
struck on the condition of building a room or two on, but 
no one minds such trifles in Italy. Because of that we sud- 
denly found that a dream was trespassing on reality. 

At Paris there was a telegram from Henry Canby, the 
editor of the Saturday Review, who had been printing re- 
views and poems of mine at intervals for the last five years. 
He wanted me to pinch-hit for some American man of let- 
ters, who at the last minute could not come to a Conference 
of Scholars and Writers from both sides of the sea on the 
state of the English language. People would confer on any- 
thing in the latter end of what has been called "the Oppres- 
sion," when the money came in so easily, that in eighteen 
months would be as if it never had been. It looked like a 
diverting party to me, and I accepted. Fun on the grand 
scale it turned out to be, though just what the results of our 
discussions were still remains hidden in mystery. 

The affair made one think of a trackmeet with champions 
present for every sort of literary event, though the Ameri- 
cans were a relatively uniform lot. Every one of us was, or 
had been, a college professor. But the English were variety 
itself, Bernard Shaw, Sir Henry Newbolt, Sir Israel Gollancz, 
Sir John Squire, Professor Boas, Professor Dover Wilson, Sir 
John Rieth of the B. B. C., John Bailey, nicest of critics, 
with the Earl of Balfour to rule the whirlwind. 

The debates, the rambling opinions, the set orations, had 
for their stage a room in the building of the Royal Society 
for Literature. And it is fair to remark that even the wise 
and great seemed to be suffering from a common disease, 
the malady of having nothing to say and a strong disposi- 
tion to say it. Sir John Rieth, with the practical problem 
of broadcasting in his eye, was, I think, actually suffering 
from ideas, but he got nowhere in the sea of anecdote, remi- 
niscence, and epigram. At one of the sessions I sat beside 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

the delightful Bailey over against the ancient majesty of 
Shaw, who was diverting himself from time to time by hurl- 
ing monkey-wrenches into the machinery of chaos. Bailey, 
as one taking elaborate notes, wrote furiously on the scratch- 
pad provided for him by the Royal Society, as in fact we 
all did, like the jury in Alice in Wonderland. When we rose 
at the end of the session, it was impossible for me not to 
see what he had written, which he who ran might read. "In 
an ecstasy of boredom and a florid cursive hand" he had 
scrawled "George Bernard Shaw" fifty times on the coarse 
paper, and I am sure that any graphologist would have 
discovered quintessential rage in every quirk of his pencil. 
About the only thing we accomplished was a dinner at the 
Athenaeum and the promise of another the ensuing year 
which last fell through. People don't have that kind of din- 
ner when depressions develop. 

Nevertheless, that dinner revealed the English at their 
pleasant best. Lord Balfour was in the chair and by his 
social-art magic converted a symposium into one of the best 
parties that ever was thrown. There was sinuous and snaky 
grace about him, as he pulled the shy or the silent into the 
conversation. The woman doesn't breathe who could do it 
so well. His compliments were the very best butter, perfectly 
clearly from ducal cows. I sat between Sir Henry Newbolt 
and Sir Israel Gollancz. Sir Henry's poetry I knew, as also 
Sir Israel's prefaces, but for the first part of the meal I was 
pretty well taken up with the poet. He proved to be "as 
pleasant as a palm-tree," and had a non-conformist's sym- 
pathy for America and Americans, such as is not always 
found among cultivated Englishmen. I had not known till 
he told me that the Atlantic Monthly was during its great 
days the favorite magazine of English families not in the 
Fold of Canterbury. One can see why. The errors of Rome 
never crept into those double columns, as they might into 
English reviews, which were exposed to High Church in- 

202 



THE ROAD TO FLORENCE 

fluence. Sir Henry and I had a high old time, but presently 
I knew I must pay some attention to the Shakespearean on 
my right. He was charming too, but his almost open curios- 
ity as to why a man he had never heard of had been invited 
to the conference nettled me a little. He began with oblique 
questions, but presently came out with a blunt "Who are 
you?" I suppose I might have replied, like Tristram Shandy 
to the customs man: "Don't puzzle me/' Instead between 
irritation and amusement, I answered: "A comic poet/' 
which checked the attack, for one cannot ask what a comic 
poet is. Sir Israel changed the subject, and asked me if I had 
yet met Mr. Shaw and should I like to. I said I should. And 
at that point the party began to break up. 

As we hovered in that uneasy state (why people take so 
long to say farewell is beyond me) I suddenly found myself 
unprotected and completely exposed to the charm of Lord 
Balfour. In spite of what my acquaintances habitually say, 
I am as shy as anybody and even more so with respect to 
that kind of man, having a kind of terror of all and sundry 
who can speak well on their hind-legs. I could see his mind 
work. It was almost as if he said aloud: 'Til put that chap 
at his ease, if it's the last act of my life." He did it too, with 
as banal a question as ever was asked: "Do you know who 
my favorite American author is?" From what I knew of 
him I certainly should not have picked O. Henry, who 
proved to be the successful entry. For five or six minutes 
we chatted. I was fully aware that it was like the snake's 
power over the bird, but it was just as overwhelming and 
inescapable. And it convinced me of the essential truth of 
an anecdote Brooke had told me fourteen years before. 
Lord Balfour and Mr. H. G. Wells had met for the first 
time at a houseparty. Mr. Wells was then at his most com- 
munistic and collective, and accordingly very down on great 
feudal families. Yet in half an hour he succumbed to what 
I succumbed to in two minutes, following the charmer 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

around almost with open mouth. I don't blame him for an 
instant. A few months later a new book was announced by 
Mr. Wells called A Modern Utopia. In that work the em- 
bittered socialist had founded his new house upon the rock 
of an aristocracy. So our logic is confounded. 

Lord Balfour, even from that slight glimpse, remains a 
strange figure in my sight. I am sure that the clue to him, 
as far as there could be a clue, was that he was immensely 
cynical and derived his only real satisfaction from the exer- 
cise of his mysterious power. There was nothing hypocritical 
about it. But there was something comic about that flattery 
that never went over the border of good taste, yet was near 
enough that frontier to make one speculate. While the dis- 
play was on, the recipient wondered helplessly whether or 
no men were as easy as that, at the very moment when it 
was proved in his own person that they were, I believe Lord 
Balfour's career showed that he could not hold men's loy- 
alty long. Perhaps he hardly cared to. But I never saw in 
my life anyone who could win them so quickly by arts so 
transparent. 

The next morning the conference met for the last time. 
I supposed Sir Israel would have forgotten his promise, but 
not at all. At the end of the meeting he offered me up on 
the altar. "Mr. Shaw/' he said, "may I present Mr. Bacon, 
an American humorist?" The bolt fell instantly: "My God, 
what a thing to say of a man!" There may be a suitable 
answer. I didn't have it. 

But I did have a car waiting for me, and even Mr. Shaw 
will consent to be taken where he wishes to go. I'm glad he 
did, for I found him an entertaining companion. He ut- 
tered no cosmic truths, but he hasn't done that much any- 
how, and I might not be worthy. However, I found his small 
talk diverting. As we passed Covent Garden, full of cab- 
bages, broken crates, and wilted flowers, he asked me sud- 

204 



THE ROAD TO FLORENCE 

denly, "Did you ever see a play of mine called Pygmalion?" 
"No, but I've read it." "Well, that's where it started/' Why 
that pleased me I cannot say, though it might be due to the 
irrelevance which is one of his principal gifts. Again apropos 
of nothing in particular: "I have been writing a book on 
socialism, two hundred and fifty thousand words. Cost the 
world twelve and a half plays." This remark emboldened 
me to say something myself. I said that in spite of an im- 
planted prejudice, I thought St. Joan was a wonderful thing. 
He seemed positively embarrassed, almost stuttering in what 
looked to me like confusion, as he replied: "Nonsense! Non- 
sense 1 You could have written it yourself, if you had had 
the sense to go to the original documents." 

I had contracted to deliver him at the "Spectator Office/* 
And he directed the chauffeur through the twisty streets, 
incidentally affording evidence in support of the truth that 
Londoners often know as little about London as they are 
apt to know of other matters. Presently he said, "Here we 
are," and I hopped out to bid him farewell. He looked 
about him in a dazed and helpless manner and then said in 
the tone of a discoverer: "Why this isn't the 'Spectator 
Office/ This is where I came to get married." Just what we 
learn from this I do not know, though it waked hazy mem- 
ories of Man and Superman. The episode seemed symbolic. 
On his way to get married, by a similar error, did he arrive 
at the "Spectator Office"? 

One more anecdote about him. Two years later my wife 
and I entered the Academia di belle arti in Venice at what 
proved to be the uninteresting end. Presently we found 
ourselves in a huge salle containing in the first place gigan- 
tic seventeenth-century depositions from the Cross, the kind 
that look like railroad accidents, and in the second Mr. 
George Bernard Shaw in solitary contemplation of those 
dubious chefs-d'oeuvre. I told my wife she was for it, and 

205 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

introduced him to her. He beamed upon her and asked if 
we had seen the Carpaccios yet. We said we were on our 
way. In a tone of restrained excitement he adjured us not 
to miss a particular Madonna. "Not in the big Carpaccio 
room, just outside it. I want you to look at it with especial 
care, because the Christ-child is a portrait of the infant H. G. 
Wells/' 

To me he seemed a most engaging mixture of the divert- 
ing and the kindly. He is so quick in the uptake that com- 
petition is farcical, but it is utterly impossible to bear malice. 
Nevertheless, I think this is true of him. He is only super- 
ficially informed and readily makes game of what he readily 
fails to understand.* It is profoundly silly to talk about Dar- 
win as if he were an obscurantist dolt, about Pavlov as if he 
were an empirical sadist. His beautiful clear English can do 
nothing for foolish ideas, if they are foolish. He seems to 
me a good deal like a cart-tail orator who pretends to be 
getting at the facts, but in reality is only anxious to discom- 
fit an adversary. And the reason for his Brobdignagian suc- 
cess is that he appeals to the huge faction of the semi-edu- 
cated who derive pleasure from the pretense of exercising 
their minds. It was a sad day for English literature when a 
young Irishman, who had the rare gift of interpreting peo- 
ple, encountered himself in one of the emptier places of his 
own intellect, and said: "Sir, I perceive you are a man of 
ideas." However trenchant his epigram, or burning his elo- 
quence, he has only struck twelve twice, on each occasion 
profitably forgetting a rather impotent philosophy and hark- 
ing back to the engaging mystery of personality. I may quote 
in this connection four lines of my own: 

* It is fair to say that there is one subject on which Mr. Shaw is an 
expert. My friend Mr. Albert Jay Nock informs me that few men under- 
stand the English Poor Laws as well as Mr. Shaw. This is to his eternal 
credit. It is human enough, but still mysterious, that he should be dogmatic 
and vociferous on subjects concerning which he knows nothing and prac- 
tically silent with respect to matters on which his competence is generally 
acknowledged. 

206 



THE ROAD TO FLORENCE 

The same man who, with exquisite unkindness, 

Mocked his gross mock at Helen Keller's blindness, 

Wrote, by direction of a God unknown, 

"Caesar and Cleopatra'' and "St. Joan/' 
All of us at the conference had been given cards for a 
month at the Athenaeum. My only knowledge of English 
Clubs was derived from The Newcomes and Pendennis, 
which shows how far one may stray from actuality. I went 
in for luncheon alone one day. The place was crowded with 
Oliver Lodges and General Forcursues, and it made me feel 
timid. I sat down at a solitary little octagonal table, and as 
protective coloration ordered veal-and-ham pie and a bottle 
of stout. On another little table which positively touched 
mine lay a copy of the Scotsman, which I picked up and 
read until my meal should be served. Simultaneously with 
the arrival of my weal-an'-'ammer, a member sat down at 
the other twin table, and I was guilty of what might have 
been error. I laid the Scotsman down in such a manner that 
he might consider it in his sphere of influence, if he de- 
sired, and dug into my victuals. The man took up the paper, 
and then, contrary to the Law of Nature, Act of Parlia- 
ment, and the Custom of Kent, a voice spoke. "News from 
the North," it said. I realized that I was being accosted, 
and for a second I think I knew the sensations of an Amer- 
ican virgin when approached upon the streets of Paris. But 
I was trapped. I replied with "as monosyllabic a monosyl- 
lable as ever was uttered within the limits of the empire." 
But nothing would serve. "It's a good paper/' said the man, 
absolutely luring me. I yielded the information that it was 
better than some of ours, and was at once involved in con- 
versation with a very pleasant person indeed. He was Sir 
George Buchanan, not the ambassador but an official in the 
Health Ministry, and he made that meal amusing. At the 
end of it he said, "You're only here for a month and they 
won't give you the good brandy. Come with me and well 

207 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

have some of the good brandy." That was all right from 
my standpoint, and we sat down in the smoking-room on 
the Pall Mall side. Just as the brandy came, I grew conscious 
of the fact that something was happening in the thorough- 
fare without. My companion looked up. "O by George, you 
ought to see this. His nibs is going by. The King's going by 
to look at the new buildings in Regent Street. He's being 
welcomed into his loyal city of Westminster." "It would 
be interesting/' I said doubtfully, as I looked at the solid 
phalanxes of British backs that filled all three windows. 
"Nothing easier," he said, and rising tapped one of the 
backs on the shoulder: "Make room for this Colonial!" On 
this hateful false pretense I was literally pushed against the 
pane and enjoyed a rather picturesque show, not to men- 
tion the remarkably explicit commentary of the spectators 
around me on the decline of pageantry in England. When 
the spectacle was over a magnificent man, really splendid to 
look upon, came up to me and said in the most cordial 
manner: "Where are you from? I am from the Colonies 
too. I am from New Zealand." A dozen men with whom I 
had been chatting looked at me curiously, as I made what 
seems to me the only possible reply: "I'm from New Eng- 
land." It didn't seem to me much of a sally, and I was 
wholly unprepared for the explosion of mirth which fol- 
lowed. The beautiful and genuine Colonial flushed, as if 
something had been said at his expense. In a sense it had. 
He was the great physicist, Lord Rutherford, and, inasmuch 
as he was death on the bonds of empire, his friends were 
delighted when his morbid propensities were thus acciden- 
tally exposed. However, he was a nice man as well as a great 
one who bore no malice. I had a wonderful chat with him 
for half an hour, with much talk of Gilbert Lewis whom he 
knew and admired. Lord Rutherford was something to run 
into, even if one had the haziest understanding of his knowl- 
edge and power. It was impossible not to feel the reality of 

208 ; 



THE ROAD TO FLORENCE 

both. The episode destroyed forever any notion I might 
have had that the English are cold and reserved and that 
their clubs are like unto them. 

There was another encounter, interesting to us with the 
three Sitwells. Osbert Sitwell we had met in New York at 
Sidney Howard's. At that time I had developed a brutal 
prejudice against them, and went to meet him more out of 
unsympathetic curiosity than for any reasonable or laud- 
able motive. I still see nothing to write home about in much 
of their writing. But I found Osbert really entertaining in 
America and cordial in England, exactly the reverse, on 
both counts, of what we are too apt to fancy the English to 
be. We had tea with the trinity a couple of times in Carlyle 
Gardens. And I had the grace to form new opinions. In the 
first place it penetrated my mind finally that their bitter- 
ness was genuine and that their eccentricity was only pose 
in the sense that we all strike attitudes when we get in- 
volved in actual phobias. The chief phobia of the Sitwells 
is what is called "County." They are down on the English 
equivalent of the late George Apley. And no one has a bet- 
ter right, for that is the pit whence they were digged. I knew 
their remarkable mother in Florence and I once met their 
extraordinary father at Monte Guffone. Both parents were 
rebels against something, though it might not be County, 
and the children hewed to the line. Naturally they carried 
the war against the conventional life and thought of a caste 
to a point where the war became a convention in itself. In 
due course each of them was deliberately creating occasions 
of offense against cricketers and fox-hunters with catas- 
trophic success. And I now know that Osbert's expression of 
dismay, when he discovered that I enjoyed my tennis, was 
not affectation. Tennis is enjoyed by all his enemies. I think 
he endeavored to be magnanimous about my weakness. 

Their eccentricity and bitterness are real, but so are their 
powers when they escape from their idiosyncrasies. And no 

209 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

one can be more pleasant and human than they. The worst 
thing that can be said about them is that they are not always 
so well informed as they trick themselves into believing. 
They really think they know, and often they have inves- 
tigated. But I am far from believing that Miss SitwelFs book 
on Pope tells us much about that magnificent poet. It tells 
us a great deal about Miss Sitwell, among other things that 
she mistook a keen interest in the subject for knowledge 
concerning it. And her poetry, for the greater part, consists 
of firefly gleams in a night of obscurity. In this her work 
differs from much contemporary poetry, which has plenty of 
obscurity but no fireflies. 

I have only glanced at Sacheverell Sitwell's books. But 
Osbert in Before the Bombardment came parlous near to 
writing a great novel. I think he damaged it by succumbing 
to one of our contemporary maladies, the disposition, when 
you have a living idea by the tail, to decline into farce with 
a view to avoiding the solemn. Half the writers of the time 
have weakened on occasion. And it is too bad. Solemnity 
can be avoided in a manner less obvious. I also liked Triple 
Fugue which is fine satire, however rough the handling of 
Jack Squire, who is much too good for the cavalier measure 
meted out to him. It seems to be a law of nature that 
satirists get angry with the wrong people. When the fit is 
on them, they run out of humor, and then Pope gets sorry 
for himself and dirks Addison, Byron's knife is sharpened 
for Walter Scott, and, to compare small things with great, 
I myself have been known to fly into a fine printer's ink 
passion at persons not necessarily so black as I painted them. 
The hell of it is that at the time it feels genuine. 

The personal gentleness and beautiful manners of the Sit- 
wells are beyond praise. I liked the lot and some of their 
books. After such pleasures we returned to America to pre- 
pare for Florence, where the tools of the masons would soon 
be clinking on the alterations in the Villa Emilia. 

210 



XVI 



FLORENCE 



THE three and a quarter years from the autumn of '28 to 
the end of January, '32, are the kind of memory that I wish 
more people had. From the standpoint of many Americans 
ours was a cock-eyed sort of life, but it wasn't trivial, and it 
is connected in my mind with great and entirely legitimate 
pleasures, and with very few regrets. 

We sailed in October in a time of triumph. As far as 
Americans were concerned, the World was conquered and 
the future was secure. It makes me ill to think of the folly 
I personally believed, the Fool's Paradise into which we had, 
with very few exceptions, wandered. Naturally enough, with 
increasing income and a favorable exchange, over the sea 
our galleys went. The fact that I had real motives for going 
doesn't make things much better. One hates to have fallen 
into an unreasonable net of belief, to have been blind to 
writing on so many walls. 

At the time I was. There was mirth in the air and some 
of it was real. The children had never seen strange coun- 
tries, and the mere novelty of things to them made the voy- 
age a true delight. Gibraltar and Naples were Bagdad and 
Xanadu in their sight, or better still, as the poet remarked, 
Gibraltar and Naples. At Genoa, Lieutenant del Prato, the 

211 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

omnipotent factotum I had had the sagacity to employ, was 
waiting for us and no expedition ever disembarked with 
greater felicity, trunks, motors, Sealyham terrier, every- 
thing. That very night we were in a going concern in the 
city of our desire. The villa was as perfect as the work of 
man's hand ever gets, and the garden was a back-drop for 
Pierrot and Columbine. Below it the beautiful podere was 
a gulf of green quiet in the midst of the city, where a child 
might play forever. The Fausts were there to welcome us 
and our cousins the Peace Hazards had taken a villa near 
us. It was all beautifully satisfactory. The mobs of smiling 
servants who never seemed weary of pleasing, even if they 
did steal the brandy, the delightful friends who never inter- 
fered with work in the long telephone-free mornings, the 
tennis every afternoon, the little dinners, delicious and in- 
formal, at our own and other houses, all those things made 
a good life. 

It wasn't in any respect an idle life. It bore no resem- 
blance whatever to existence on the Riviera. Practically 
everyone we knew worked extremely hard and all the time, 
writing, painting, silversmithing, music. They were really 
at it, Faust with his poetry all morning, and his pulp-paper 
stories all afternoon, when he was weary; Dick Blow, so 
avid of sunlight for painting that he let it interfere seriously 
with his tennis; Bill Yarrow slaving over his big Princeton 
murals; Herbert Durst at his squadrons of silver ships. Later 
there was Roger Burlingame from Porto Fino. And many 
others. But during those years it was of Faust that I saw 
most. 

My intimacy with him had begun in California where 
he had been one of that matchless group that created Eng- 
lish 106. That intimacy has continued over twenty-six years 
in every vicissitude and I hope it lasts three times that. We 
differ on almost every conceivable subject to such an extent 
that, as Faust himself once put it, it gives each of us a species 
of shock when, without provocation, we find ourselves in 



*v 01 O ^ 



FLORENCE 

agreement about anything. An evening has been practically 
ruined by some chance and wholly unforeseen failure to 
oppose on one part or the other. But the result has been to 
me at least a source of infinite pleasure, whether the bone 
of contention were blank verse or politics, Attic tragedy or 
a stroke in tennis, personalities of men or the qualities of 
wines. Blood has been shed on both sides about all these 
questions and many more. And here Faust was, three min- 
utes' walk across the podere, for over three years. All I had 
to do was to drop over and smite his shield. Out he would 
prance snorting and snuffing the battle. It may be objected 
that this sort of thing is waste of time. If that be so, a great 
deal more time should be wasted and courses should be 
given in the art, openly and ostensibly, not disguised as 
English 2 1 or Philosophy 103. That one of us ever shook the 
other's conviction, I do not believe. But it is salutary to be- 
come convinced of the existence of another's obstinate im- 
becility, if it does no more than persuade you of the innate 
rightness of your own beliefs. I do not regret those battles 
for justice and liberty. And as Faust sulks in the tents of 
Hollywood, I hope he does not either. 

But life had a thousand surfaces in that town, each one 
with its own characteristic reflection. It was the happy hunt- 
ing-ground of revelers who had strayed out of the worlds 
of diplomacy and courts, of blue blood and parvenu, of rich 
roturiers and poor nobles, who, it seemed to me, had much 
the same ideas. This was painfully apparent, when a decayed 
marquis tried to sell me some new gadget for the house over 
my own dinner table. Even an American drummer knows 
there is a time and a place. It was pleasant to run into 
Julia Marlowe at a tea and find her as lovely in her retire- 
ment as she had been behind footlights. A Russian princess 
who had become an Italian countess diverted me particu- 
larly. She was only eighty, but her recollections were mali- 
cious and macabre. She had seen d'Annunzio in a mask, 
being made love to by a dozen women at once. And the 

213 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

first thing she remembered was being taken by her nurse to 
the church on her father's estate to behold a religious cere- 
mony. The peasantry at the moment were poleaxing Jews 
in front of the high altar, a spectacle now part of the educa- 
tion of adolescent Germans. 

As a contrast to that entertaining old survival, I may men- 
tion the lady (she was emphatically that) who proposed to 
herself the curious revenge of entertaining at tea the judge 
who some years before had sentenced her to gaol. The judge, 
discovering in the nick who his hostess of the afternoon was 
to be, shrank pusillanimously from the ordeal. Florence is 
the only city I've ever lived in where a lady would dream of 
offering tea to a man who'd done that to her. It is also the 
only city where nobody cared whether he had or not. I do 
not forget either that British matron of renown, who, when 
invited to luncheon by an American lady of credit, sent 
word by the butler that she herself could not come but that 
her seven house-guests would. One is thrown into serious 
perplexity by such an episode. Was the British female really 
as stupid as all that? Or did she merely give way to her per- 
sonal propensity for bad taste and worse manners? Inci- 
dentally it was an Englishwoman of the very greatest charm 
and courtesy, who, with tears of humorous wrath in her eyes, 
related to me that equivocal history. My informant was of 
the real English, whose qualities everyone should wish to 
possess, as opposed to the unreal English, whose qualities 
everyone must take pains to avoid. 

I suppose we didn't see enough of Italians, though I got 
to like many of them enormously. There is nothing nicer 
than the nice ones. They have fine manners, quick sym- 
pathy, and often extraordinary cultivation. On the other 
hand I think they are frequently curiously limited, more so 
than people no more cultivated than they in other coun- 
tries. It took me some time to learn to speak well enough 

214 



FLORENCE 

to carry on a conversation, and that in part may account for 
the limitation which I have mentioned, my fault rather than 
theirs. But I rather think it is due to another reason. They 
don't, or won't, or can't travel in reality, and seldom in their 
minds. So clever a man as Papini is simply grotesque the 
minute foreign achievement or thought is mentioned. He 
drums Kant out of the regiment of philosophy on the 
ground that all Germans are repulsive anyway. And I have 
heard Casals cheered to the echo after playing a Haydn 
concerto, the outburst being immediately followed by a 
tremendous yell: "Viva Mascagni!" It isn't that they are 
chauvinistic, and they are invariably courteous. But they 
take an almost pharisaic pleasure in their own culture, 
without much reference to other possibilities. One Italian, 
to whom the stricture does not apply, put it in so many 
words to me: "It is a bad country for thinkers." He was of 
course alluding to the regime. But the sort of interest in 
other people's ideas and problems that one finds in demo- 
cratic Europe is not common. When you find it, as you do, 
it is correspondingly charming. 

One of the entertaining facts of life in the city is the en- 
demic Englishman. Generally he has lived there not less 
than thirty years and has been conspicuously successful in 
his battle not to learn the language. But he knows everyone 
and is liked by everyone. One of the most diverting and 
agreeable permanent features of the landscape was Reginald 
Turner, to whom the details about knowing everyone and 
being liked apply. Concerning him Garrick's epigram on 
Goldsmith might be reversed for he talked a great deal bet- 
ter than he wrote. Of this he was not unaware, as his re- 
marks to a globe-trotter indicated: "Ah, you have just ar- 
rived from India? On the 'Rajah of Lahore? Did you by 
chance notice a novel of mine in her library? There is one. 
I have traced each of the eleven copies sold to its place of 
rest." 

215 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Anyhow at a men's luncheon he was perfect company. 
His trick of blinking first one eye and then the other 
somehow contributed to the odd amiability of his talk. I 
have always been definitely impressed by his theory that 
he had written himself out under the pseudonym of Jane 
Austen. The corroborative detail was striking. "Every one 
of those novels was written on a yacht/' he would say, and 
your fancy, leaping with his, explored the factitious origins 
of Pride and Prejudice on blue water. I read a story by 
Reggie in The Yellow Book, to which he had contributed 
half a lifetime before. It did not bear out the Jane Austen 
theory. But it was his connection with literature which was 
interesting, rather than his performance. He was a specialist 
in death-beds. For he had been in the room when Oscar 
Wilde died beneath his means, and again when the uneven 
powers of D. H. Lawrence were frozen at their marvelous 
source. Any distinguished man of letters who may happen 
to read this is explicitly warned that Reggie may conceiv- 
ably add him to his strange collection. 

Of Lawrence I once heard Reggie remark that he had a 
grudge against the universe because his father was not a 
duke. The fact is pretty apparent in every novel of Law- 
rence's I have read. The snobbery of the proletariat is vis- 
ible in the unvarying formula of the man of humble origins 
who rejects with scorn the lascivious appeals of the nobly 
born consort of Potiphar. That formula is particularly at- 
tractive to convinced democrats, who, as has been noted, are 
the only true believers in aristocracy. Aristocrats know bet- 
ter. They generally believe in democracy. The sore place in 
Lawrence's mind perhaps also accounts for his indecent per- 
sonal cruelty to people, like Michael Arlen, who had been 
kind to him, though nothing can explain his conduct to the 
nice old Englishman at Turin, who took him in when he 
was penniless, only to be pilloried in a merciless sketch, sold 

216 



FLORENCE 

for money, by his horrible guest. Lawrence was unquestion- 
ably a genius, but what a boring one! No greater descriptive 
power has ever been used to express a more unpalatable 
personality. 

With Turner I once or twice encountered Lawrence's 
mortal enemy, the fantastic Norman Douglas. He was a big, 
strong, fair animal, who might have stepped out of "Hand- 
ley Cross." As one passed him on the Tornabuoni, one felt 
an instinctive urge to shout "Stolen away" or sing "John 
Peel" at him. No man could possibly look less like the 
author of the diverting and graceful South Wind, or of the 
abysmal and labored In the Beginning, of which two works 
I venture to guess that their author prefers the second. He 
was getting up his famous collection of obscene limericks at 
the time, a task for which he was magnificently qualified. 
Certainly he was, and still may be, a various-minded man. 
I am told that his monograph on the herpetology of Baden 
is a classic among lovers of snakes and lizards. And his very 
failures show that there is practically nothing he doesn't 
know. Around him was an atmosphere hardly worth analyz- 
ing into its constituent gases, but roughly like this, 10 per 
cent real viciousness past or present, 25 per cent enjoyment 
of a sinister reputation, and the rest unsupported rumor. I 
think he had had a hard life and himself to thank, but that 
he was objective about it. It is tragic that his later work has 
been so I was going to write putrid, but puling is clearly 
more descriptive. His exquisite English only helps you to 
see how pediculous are his ideas. And as one considers the 
insects, imperfectly preserved in the ephemeral amber of 
his style, one wonders with Pope, "how the devil they got 

there!" 

Possibly to my loss I only encountered another local celeb- 
rity once. He is no doubt immortalized in the ensuing 
verses in which one word of Italian slang requires explana- 

217 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

tion. Scorpione is the argot of the Tornabuoni for the sort 
of British old maid who infests all museums and tea shops. 

Down the Via Tornabuoni 
March the ranks of Scorpioni, 
Reading swiftly as they run 
Works by Mr. Berenson, - 
Who sits tight in Settignano 
On his cinquecento ano > 
Praying for more Scorpioni 
On the Via Tornabuoni. 

Among the changing stars that drifted through Florence 
from time to time, I was particularly attracted to Richard 
Aldington, though I was never especially intimate with him. 
Against him I have but one grievance, that he once brought 
to luncheon with me a small poetaster, to strangle whom 
would have struck anyone but the humane Richard as a 
perfectly elegant idea. I suppose Richard was nice to him 
on the principle of opposites, because the creature was un- 
fortunate and incapable and ill bred. There is something 
about Aldington's mind and nature that I can't put my 
finger on, except to say that I like to go along with him. 
If he has a difficulty which is none to me, I see at once why 
it is so to him. And this goes for speech with him and for 
his essays and poetry, but not altogether for the famous 
Death of a Hero. That work is brilliant and powerful, but 
I don't think that the insanity and evil of battle are suffi- 
ciently demonstrated by reporting their effect on small-time 
artists caught up in the whirlwind. When I first read the 
book ten years ago it knocked my eye out, and God knows 
there are masterly moments. But you are left with a feeling 
that if the War Generation was as ineffective as all that, 
they'd have made a magnificent mess without the assistance 
of a war. 

Three years doesn't begin to be enough to learn even a 
smattering of Florence, whether of its art, its history, or its 

218 



FLORENCE 

social organization. It is not a gay town. Caf life is limited. 
Night life hardly exists. There is fifty times as much excite- 
ment at Bologna, only two hours away by motor. That city 
has what you read about. But in Florence, the prey of the 
foreigner, entertainment is strictly private. The best restau- 
rant was in a hotel. And one solitary night-club lived on the 
expectation of a retreating future. I was in it once after a 
stag-party at Dick Blow's. Bill Yarrow and I stepped in for 
a drink, for which I think there was not the faintest neces- 
sity. In that temple of mirth we found a one-legged man 
and a woman, apparently a street-walker, who was warming 
her latter end against a typically unresponsive Italian radi- 
ator. Toulouse-Lautrec could have caught the futile look of 
those incompetent revelers who were not only strayed but 
apparently stolen. They didn't even speak to each other. 
Anyone who wants noise, excited faces, and nocturnal 
rhythm had better not seek them in the Flower Town. 

On the other hand about eleven o'clock in the morning 
there is a gentle acceleration of life in the bars, hardly more 
noticeable than the rise of the tide in the Mediterranean. 
You can just barely see that there is such a thing. People 
drift into Doney's or Alfredo's to expatiate and confer. 
Italians and Barbarians murder each other's languages, gos- 
sip, and crack small jokes that never by any chance allude 
to public policy. And I thoroughly enjoyed that mild and 
well-behaved cocktail hour, which was harmless and civi- 
lized, and as remote as possible from unlicked American 
orgies, in which I have too often done my fair share. 

In spite of the limitation set upon them by their brutal 
government, the Italians still talk well. Their speech is ele- 
gant and their wit is pointed, even if the pun is in high 
esteem. An instance will serve. A member of the great 
Strozzi family, famous for eight hundred years, got into 
serious and louche financial difficulties. While this scandal 
was still piping hot, a degenerate Marchese Guadagni mur- 

219 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

dered his lawyer's elderly chamber-maid, when she caught 
him stealing 800 lire from her master's desk. The Via Torna- 
buoni commented neatly on the decline of the great nobil- 
ity, as follows: "Gli Strozzi fanno illeciti guadagni ed i 
Guadagni fanno illeciti strozzi." This may be worked into 
an English quatrain for such as have no Italian. 

Now in our Florence there are stains 
On scutcheons of uncounted quarters. 
The Slaughters make illicit gains, 
And the Gains make illicit slaughters. 

And I personally have always admired Cadorna's typical 
retort to Clemenceau when the Frenchman said bitterly 
after Caporetto: "France fights for honor and Italy for 
money/' Cadorna is alleged to have replied: "Yes, we both 
fight for what we haven't got." 

Nevertheless Italian conversation, except in dern privacy 
with intimates, suffers from an appalling handicap. One can- 
not speak seriously about politics, and it is dangerous to 
speak in jest. Political epigram has taken refuge in the 
pornographic, and for two reasons is retailed, if at all, in 
a very low voice. You look around before you speak and 
even before you listen. The sultry stories, in which Mussolini 
always gets the dirty end of the stick, are the one form of 
criticism he has been unable to' suppress. And it struck me 
as odd to find the muse of the lavatory and the brothel 
working hard on the side of the angels. Strangely enough 
she is the most unassailable of the enemies of dictators. 
And in my opinion young Italians can hardly make her 
acquaintance too soon. 

Of course, if people trust you and know that the servants 
don't speak English, they will speak like human beings with- 
out invoking the protection of Venus Verticordia. I shan't 
forget the shame on the face of a friend the morning after 
the loathsome boys slapped Toscanini at Bologna. But only 

220 



FLORENCE 

two voices remain unstilled in all Italy, Though it be a 
digression I am going to say my say on the subject. One, of 
course, is the sad and noble voice of Benedetto Croce. No 
braver man has stood erect in the peninsula since the 
Roman Empire. His solitary no against three hundred in- 
timidated ayes, when the Senate rubber-stamped the Con- 
cordat, outweighs them all. He writes what he pleases and 
gets it by devious methods beyond the frontiers, whence I 
hope some of it seeps back through the same channels. He 
has been subjected to open brutality. His house has been 
looted. Friends and disciples fear to be seen with him. But 
he is an opposition in himself, certainly not ignored and 
perhaps feared by the detestable hierarchy. I suppose when 
he dies, the big shots will feel their work complete and put 
up a new monument in ghastly taste suitably inscribed with 
Virgil's line: 

Tantae molis erat, Romanam condere gentem. 

They won't either, while the other voice speaks. Musso- 
lini has so far failed to put down that odd mixture of Burns 
and Mark Twain, who writes under the name of Trilussa. 
The dictator even made a virtue of necessity and told Emil 
Ludwig that speech was free in Italy, if it was funny enough. 
I am still of the opinion that it takes more than one swallow 
to make a summer. But Trilussa's books may be bought at 
any bookshop. My copy of his selected verse informs me 
that 53,000 of his fables have been sold and I'm sure that 
those thousands do not resemble the French publisher's, 
"des vrais milles, des milles de cinque cents." When I left 
in 1932 his verses still occasionally made the censor-combed 
Italian Front Page. He is the only visible symptom of what 
was once the wit and humor of a great people. And single- 
handed he may keep those necessary qualities alive till bet- 
ter times. Greatly daring, I submit a version of his sonnet 
"The Violinist" as a tribute, though an inadequate one, to 

221 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

a poet wholly unknown outside his own land, and one in- 
finitely greater than any writer for the blasted regime. 

THE VIOLINIST 

Once in a while to the restaurant there came 

An awful violinist, runs the story, 

Who did a murder on "II Trovatore" 

And things to "Gavalleria" without name. 

One night a stranger, whom we could not blame, 

Screamed out: "We've had enough of all this gory 

Racket. Why make us suffer? Go to glory! 

God, what a bore! Shut up! Pipe down! For shame!" 

At that the fiddler, visibly a limb 

Illegitimate of decadent nobility, 

Began at once to play the Fascist Hymn. 

Whereupon the stranger > suddenly benign, 

Saluted with appropriate docility. 

Adding sotto voce: "He's done me in, the swine!" 

The more I think of Trilussa, the more he engages my 
fancy. He doesn't speak for the peasantry, brave, dour, and 
bewildered, or for the bourgeoisie, timid, anxious, and 
money-grubbing, or for the nobility, often esurient cadgers, 
but he is the free voice of the gay, bright, honest-to-God 
intellect that speaks for all men. He is full to the chin of 
bitterness and kindness. And his laughter will be ringing in 
a pleasanter land, when a note, to steal the old figure, will 
have to be affixed to the "Violinist" to tell schoolboys what 
the Fascist Hymn was. 

The reader has perceived that the subject makes me mad. 
It may perhaps bore him, but I think the change in my 
attitude toward Fascism is not without interest. When I 
first visited Italy after the War, although I had the usual 
perfunctory American objections to dictatorships, I was as 
near neutral as a man ever gets on such a question. Also I 
had a strong feeling that it was the Italians' business, and 
that a foreigner's views were necessarily bathetic. It may be 

222 



FLORENCE 

that I was even disposed to admire the Duce's raw strength 
and ability. The man on horseback is not without appeal to 
persons in no danger of being ridden down. But even in 
1925 the propaganda disgusted me. And the Matteotti busi- 
ness couldn't be laughed off. "He didn't do it, but it was a 
mistake," said a bright lady. I like to keep balanced and 
all that sort of thing. But the fact is that no communist, 
howling in Moscow after an inflammatory speech by a com- 
missar who will be liquidated in the next purge, ever felt 
his entrails revolt more than mine did, and do, against the 
hateful unsportsmanlike clique that run the Italian works. 
The whole system is blague, deception, and dishonor, from 
the mythical march on Rome, which never took place at all, 
to the trumped-up indecencies of the quarrel fastened by 
barbarous Italy on primitive and comparatively blameless 
Ethiopia. For Italy is going barbarous, and Fascism has 
achieved the impossible. The Mother of Arts has been 
changed into a savage maenad, whose intellect withers as 
she yields to the frantic power of her Voodoo-man. Nor 
is there a man of talent or good will who hasn't retreated 
into silence which he feels to be dishonorable, or into exile, 
where he knows how bitter is his bread who climbs another's 
stair. 

Let the regime claim all the material progress it can 
(nothing to write home about), the disgusting fact remains 
that, since the fabulous march, not a book, not a statue, not 
a picture, has appeared among the Italians. There has been 
some faint scientific radiation, and engines of war, effective 
enough among savages who had only spears, and Spanish 
children who had nothing, are built in quantity. But Cin- 
cinnati is a hundred times nearer to what life was meant to 
be than Caesar's city. 

The longer I saw it at work (and I never had the faintest 
trouble myself, for foreigners with a little money are neces- 
sary to fascist economy) the more I hated it. And I believe, 

223 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

In spite of the dragooned plebiscites, that the Italians hate 
it too. When you have seen a black-shirt pursuing a crowded 
tram, and not a soul on the car will bother to tell the con- 
ductor, you feel that something has been expressed with 
silent eloquence. People submit, when their priests are 
beaten up just before election day. "II bel paese dove il si 
suona," doesn't think "si," though the word may be put on 
a ballot. The country simply acquiesces before the menaces 
of a savage and perfectly organized pressure group. It won't 
forever. I don't suppose I'll live to see a statue of Lauro 
de Bosis. But, as the poet said in another connection, the 
metal that will make it is somewhere between the Alps and 
Pantelleria. 

If this sounds rhetorical and hysterical, I am sorry. It 
makes me sick when American business men who have made 
a profitable deal with the regime, or social exquisites who 
have been flattered to their heart's content during the season 
in Rome, tell what a lot Mussolini has done for Italy. Just 
buy a glass of Vermouth in a hill-town above Carrara, and 
consider how much Mussolini has done for the inn-keeper, 
who nearly faints at the sight of a fifty-lire note. The system 
is an outrage on rich and poor alike, and it is a point of 
honor to say so. And to compromise with it is to yield to 
it. That cannot be said too often, no matter how badly. 

Naturally enough I wasn't perpetually the prey of polit- 
ical hatreds for three years. Other matters interposed. We 
weren't even in Florence all the time. There was a summer 
on the beach at Forte di Marmi near Viareggio, when the 
Libeccio brought up magnificent surf all the way from 
Africa, and stars were hung aloft every night, certainly not 
in lone splendor. There was another summer in the Pyre- 
nees, Paris and Switzerland. It is something to take children 
into Venice for the first time. As a delightful Anglo-Amer- 
ican lady put it: "You step out of the ugliest railway-station 

224 



FLORENCE 

on earth and you're half-way to the moon." And we came 
to know Siena and San Gimignano like the back of our 
hand. Sights, like the Palio and the great revived football 
game between the Whites and the Greens in the square by 
the Palazzo Vecchio, were almost commonplaces. And I for 
one got a strange kick out of the terrific "Millemiglia" 
motor-race, that roared under my garden wall once a year. 
It may be an obvious remark, but strange images rise in the 
mind when Alpha Romeos and Lancias hurl down the same 
road where Hannibal rode his elephants. 

The interest to a foreigner was limitless. And yet I know 
that though it was wise to go to Florence when we did, it 
was still wiser to leave when we did. We had had magnifi- 
cent draughts from the fountain, but it is bad for grown-ups 
to become expatriates and worse for children. The depres- 
sion of course made a difference, but if it had been better 
to remain, it could have been managed. And the great 
motive had ceased to exist. The Furioso was complete. 

The Furioso is a long poem which swam into my ken in 
1923, just after I had finished Ulug Beg. I worked on it and 
thought about it for nine years, for two of them almost ex- 
clusively. As I have said, I had in mind a sort of Byronic- 
Bernesque epic on d'Annunzio, whose extraordinarily hate- 
ful personality fascinated me, as a Komodo dragon might 
fascinate an amateur zoologist. His very acts of kindness 
(which never by any chance cost him anything whatever) 
were rhetoric. And what shall be said of his acts of unkind- 
ness? Feeling, which in some form is essential to every kind 
of greatness, in his formula was preceded by a minus-sign. 
He lived on the principle of the negation of the humane. 
When he fled from Fiume, he excused an indecision which 
was not heroic, on the ground that Italy was not worth 
fighting for, just as he insulted Eleonora Duse after casting 
her off. The comparison is old but it is exact. I myself, I 

225 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

think first of living men, pointed out that the last paragraph 
of his Constitution of Fiume is a provision for state- 
supported grand opera. Whatever else he had, he had to 
have that. Every one of the qualities of the artist, which 
can, and do, become detestable, was his, good measure 
pressed down. In his own sight he was a master, a mage. 
Men were created his slaves and women his mistresses. And 
there was no limit to the evil he would do either sex in his 
own interest, if it lay in his power. Whatever was violent 
was good in his eyes. It is small wonder if the weary Mario 
Praz, after his pedestrian voyage among the deserts created 
by de Sade, should call d'Annunzio both a barbarian and a 
decadent. The qualities are so apparent in him that many 
people ceased quite early to be deceived by the splendor of 
his descriptive powers. Such remarks to his address as: "If 
it isn't incest, it isn't tragedy" show that you can't fool all 
of them all the time, and the epigram might be profitably 
meditated by certain American poets and dramatists. 

But, as has been said, he never learned the power of great 
emotions, because he never felt them. The tingle of an ad- 
venture or an escapade was the nearest thing to a feeling 
that he ever knew. The lust of the flesh and the lust for 
power were his approximations and substitutes for human 
desire. There is a sentence in "La Beffa di Buccari" which 
is in every sense a give-away. After describing with great 
spirit and still greater vanity a reasonably perilous naval 
exploit in which he took part, he writes: "I find that hero- 
ism is like love. You are tired after both." One is not sure 
that such heroism ever existed, and certain that such love 
was something else. His concrete journalese mind never 
took in the difference between a tragedy and a railroad 
accident. That is why his typical heroine burns her face off 
in a fit of naughty temper. That is why his horrors never 
touch the sublime and seldom escape from the ridiculous. 

226 



FLORENCE 

Oedipus putting out his eyes after the discovery of his fate 
has nothing that is not real and incredibly human. But the 
chorus of the Faledri, blinded and tongueless, in La Nave, 
has nothing that is not Grand Guignol. It does not take 
Borgese's brilliant book to tell one, that there is just one 
thing that d'Annunzio could do really well. Like Byron 
superficially in many things, but actually only in one, he 
could describe, and to such a pitch that his stage directions 
are frequently better reading than his dialogue. And his 
lousiest novel has pictures as true as the psychology is false. 
If my feeling about the man and his work are correctly 
shadowed forth in the preceding remarks, the reader might 
reasonably wonder why in the devil's name I gave up years 
of my life to writing a poem about him. The question is 
reasonable, but so is the answer. D'Annunzio seemed to me 
a shining symbol of times that were making a violent effort 
to be glittering, effective, meaningless. The sedulous ape of 
the superman, "the actual weakling enamored of imaginary 
force/' the Bobadil whose life was in competitive display, 
the hopeless pursuer of an uncaptured nouvel frisson, there 
was no aspect of his hard, gleaming, gunmetal soullessness 
that did not itself comment bitterly on the materialist's 
house of cards. Fail or not, I could write my heart out on 
the creature. And fail or not, I did. 

The book came out in 1932, and created, if possible, even 
less excitement than is usually manifest when my volumes 
from time to time appear. Such opinions as there were were 
opposed. The Times was enthusiastic but I thought without 
much discrimination. Miss Babette Deutsch, who had liked 
Animula Vagula, wrote the only review that ever gave me 
real pain, and I could tell from the tone that to hurt was 
her principal object. What flicked her on the raw I do not 
know. But she did her best to do as much damage as pos- 
sible. And her powers are not contemptible, at least in such 

227 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

a direction.* Alexander Laing reviewed the work in a tone 
of lament for abilities now lost, which he had been kind 
enough to discover in Ulug Beg. And a curious counterpoise 
turned up from what to me was an unforeseen quarter. Like 
other people I occasionally suffer from a mild form of per- 
secution-mania. For some years I had regarded the little 
magazine Poetry, which did not wholly "die to make verse 
free," as an organ which had its axe sharpened for me. I 
don't know how the impression originated. Nor do I think 
I was ever attacked in its pages. It may be that I had simply 
been ignored. Anyhow the seed of suspicion had germinated 
and grown into a quite stately shrub of prejudice in my 
mind. And after my manner I had mocked the paper and 
its editor in print. Therefore it probably served me right, 
when Miss Harriet Monroe wrote such a review of The 
Furioso, as youthful poets dream. From my standpoint she 
didn't miss a trick. She called attention in no uncertain 
terms to virtues that I thought I perceived in the poem. 
She spoke of others I had ignored, and with none of the 
picayune qualifications, to which authors are accustomed, 
and which critics almost invariably employ. I couldn't be- 
lieve my eyes. Not even Gamaliel Bradford's review of Ulug 
Beg was so definitely off the deep end as the comment of 

* I have no right to regard this assault with too much bitterness. Twenty 
years ago, early in my pleasant connection with "The Saturday Review of 
Literature," I attacked a volume of poems in a manner which I have never 
ceased to regret, I do not think my judgment was at fault, but the tone of 
my diatribe was something not to be proud of. A year later I accidentally 
found out that the author had really been wounded. Since the commission 
of that error I have sedulously avoided anything calculated to injure the 
human dignity of any writer whose book has come my way to review. He 
or she may write what seems to me not up to snuff. In that case it is my 
business and perhaps my duty to say so. But it is not my business or duty 
to say, "What can you expect of a publisher's assistant, or a jewel salesman, 
or an osteopath?" as the case may be. In this connection I have been fre- 
quently reproached on the ground that I was a college professor. So I was 
for thirteen years. But it is fifteen years since I delivered a lecture, and the 
charge in any case is irrelevant. If I write bad poetry, I write bad poetry, 
but not for that reason. A. E. Housman wrote some noticeably superior 
verse in spite of the same disqualification. 

228 



FLORENCE 

a lady whom for years I had regarded as a sinister and in- 
imical figure. The joke was quite evidently on me. I told 
her so in a letter. And for once in my life I found myself 
sharing to the full a literary opinion of Miss Harriet 
Monroe. 

Poets are not necessarily such fools as they look. And if 
time is suffered to elapse, they have, beyond the bystander, 
the power to see the difference between what was intended 
and what was achieved. The Furioso comes off better when 
subjected to this test than Ulug Beg. The public of these 
times betrayed no unconquerable interest in it, but I do 
not think it impossible that a public at some other time 
might. I hope so. The book is more compact and formed 
than Ulug Beg. It is also better informed and, in spite of 
Miss Deutsch, it has a gentler spirit. Now and then I dis- 
cover readers who have been pleased. It is something to a 
poet to find that he has rung the bell, even if it be only in 
widely separated villages in Gaul. 

The Italian Sojourn ended. Our departure was like the 
migration of a people. The horror of those packing-cases I 
shall never forget, unless I make a memorandum of it. We 
sailed through bleak wintry seas as once through mild 
autumnal waters. One of the nicest college presidents I 
know, in his state-room on the Roma, pulled a cocktail 
party in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, who in 1932 
still guaranteed the Eighteenth Amendment. We had come 
home to an America where no one wore the look of triumph 
and self-satisfaction that had been so characteristic in 1928. 



229 



XVII 



SOUTH COUNTY 



So at length, by God's bounty, 
I am back in the South County. 
These are my woods. This is my sky. 
Those are my wild-geese honking high. 
Under brown beech-leaf, past dispute, 
That is my arbutus-shoot. 
Down in my marsh my hyla croaks, 
While Venus sets between my oaks. 
There skim my may-flies to surprising 
Disaster, where my trout are rising. 
My shadblow's yet but a green blur, 
But there will come my tanager, 
And down my pasture, swooping low, 
My oriole will peck my crow. 
My title in these things endures, 
Provided I can make them yours. 

WHAT we returned to with new eyes was the South County 
of Rhode Island, which has always been lovely in my sight, 
but was even lovelier because o the bright years in Europe. 
Many my betters have loved the region and said so. I see 
no reason for not following their example. 

Foremost among them, and, I think, the ablest despite 

230 



SOUTH COUNTY 

certain eccentricities, stands that curious mixture of Tris- 
tram Shandy and New England Quaker, "Shepherd" Tom 
Hazard. He compares his Paradise freely with the Islands of 
the Hesperides, and even pretends that it is identical with 
the fabled Atlantis. The irony is a little artificial perhaps. 
There is nothing spectacular about the South County. 
Motorists on the post road seem rarely to note anything 
especial. The hills are ancient and gentle. Peak and preci- 
pice do not beetle or lower. Even a New Yorker's eye sees 
at a glance that the soil is poor and sandy, a fact which has 
saved for us the intrinsic beauty of the land. It is a coun- 
try of oak and beech and savin, of deliriously lovely streams 
paved with cress and walled with wild azalea, of magnificent 
marshes full of pepperidge and huckleberries, and of cobalt 
bays and estuaries. A handful of towns are scattered about 
in it, most of them unhappily now perverted by the Socony- 
Woolworth style. But if Wakefield and Westerly are as offen- 
sively ugly as intelligent effort can make them, Kingston is 
a pure jewel of late eighteenth-century domestic architec- 
ture, and as charming a thing to look on as can be found 
in America. The white or yellow houses under the great 
elms, the spike of the graceful church, the lanes tree-bor- 
dered that lead from the village street, have quaintness and 
poetry that make you think of Cranford, and at the same 
time of something stately and Emersonian. 

The people who inhabit even the ugliest of these towns 
have not declined from their fathers, who were once de- 
scribed in a phrase of sesquipedalian Johnsonian sonority, 
by the late Dr. Wharton. He called them "the quintuple dis- 
tillation of irreconcilability/' Quintuple is not a mere in- 
tensifying word. They are "come-outers" five times over, 
from England, from Holland, from Plymouth, from Massa- 
chusetts Bay, from Providence Plantations. Independence 
of mind, whether the result of genuine thought or of mere 
perverse contrariety, is a marked element of their natures. 

231 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Only last year one of my neighbors paid, as has been his cus- 
tom, a tax which he deems unjust in copper cents, with a 
view to making life as difficult as possible for the collector. 
They admire independence so much that they have been 
known to forgive it in others. And I am sure that there is 
no surer way to their hearts than to swing in an orbit 
marked by some incalculable eccentricity. They respect the 
individual. Like other Yankees they hate to commit them- 
selves, but Robert Coffin's men of the Kennebec are almost 
exuberant in opinion by contrast with the true-born son 
of Washington County. "Mebbe," as all students of the 
animal have pointed out, is as much as he will say when he 
is in full accord with you and quite prepared to go to 
the bat. This produces town-meetings full of surprises 
for everyone concerned, for they come out stiffly for or 
against, as if from an ambush in their minds. Nothing is 
more exasperating to people accustomed to yes or no on 
relatively minor matters. The hunted look on the face of 
a New Yorker, who has had occasion to hire a boat or em- 
ploy a carpenter during his first summer at Matunuck or 
Saunderstown, is easily accounted for and well worth seeing. 
If he has the courage to return he may outgrow it. And yet 
our people can be incomparably frank. My grandmother 
was a particularly beautiful woman, who at the age of 
thirty-five had her beauty strangely enhanced. Her black 
hair turned white in part, and the Whistler plume was 
much admired. At Kingston station an elderly farmer spoke 
to her, "Be you Rowley Hazard's wife?" "Yes." "Young 
Rowley's?" "Yes." "My, how you hev' broke!" I'm the tenth 
generation in the land and I've spent half a lifetime trying 
to fathom them. Finally I have learned a little wisdom in 
the resigned manner of a Kipling Anglo-Indian, baffled by 
the Orient. I give them up as simply as if I were a Connec- 
ticut or Massachusetts outlander, the object of their amused 
pity. Shepherd Tom on that point is more outspoken. "I 

232 



SOUTH COUNTY 

was/' he says, "brought up to fear God and love my neigh- 
bor as myself, and to hate the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay 
and the Black Presbyterians of Hartford." Something of that 
spirit of humorous but recalcitrant chauvinism still broods 
over the Pettaquamscutt, as if there were in the region some 
secret learning not to be known elsewhere. 

Yet anyone who will take the trouble to break down their 
reserve with reasonable courtesy, will find them extremely 
attractive. Whatever tendency they have to pull the visitor's 
leg a little is neutralized by a consideration for human dig- 
nity and true kindness. And their behavior in moments of 
real trouble is worth seeing. I can give a splendid instance. 
I was foreman of the Grand Jury during a session of the 
Court at Kingston. A squalid case of detournement de 
mineur came before us. And the wife of him against whom 
we found a particularly true bill and the hog-like sixteen- 
year-old moron girl, his paramour (though the word is much 
too romantic), testified before seventeen good men and 
true. It was a regular Tobacco Road set-up. And I thought 
to myself, "O God, some goat will laugh." My fears were 
groundless. Greater gentleness and delicacy I never saw 
anywhere. The unhappy wife, who was visibly heartbroken, 
was treated like a great lady, and they showed the most 
unattractive girl that ever took her pitcher to the well, a 
consideration so great that I think even she was vaguely 
aware that she deserved none. It was about as civilized a 
scene as I have had the honor to witness. The fact is I have 
very good neighbors. And I wish they may find me as agree- 
able as I find them. 

Nearly a hundred years ago, certain amiable persons from 
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia in some way discov- 
ered the pleasant land. I just barely remember the huge 
form of Edward Everett Hale who came with whole tribes 
of lesser Hales and established a dynasty still reigning in 
Matunuck. But they were not so numerous as the unknown 

233 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

nations of the Philadelphians, who absolutely conquered 
and took possession of the province of Saunderstown, to 
such an extent that they became the subject of "the judi- 
cious poet/' 

Hey diddle diddle, the Cope and the Biddlel 

To Saunderstown we go,, 

Where Whartons and Bories appear in their glories, 

And Wisters all in a row. 

Nothing is brainier than Pennsylvania, 

So much the prophets declare. 

What can be solider than the Cadwaladerf 

God lives on Rittenhouse Square. 

They became part of the land. Its beauty possessed them in 
its slow way. Of course they are there mainly in summer. 
But they make sporadic raids even in January blizzards, 
and have finally earned the grudging respect of those whom 
at first they oppressed by mere numbers. They are as much 
a part of the fauna of the region as we are ourselves. And 
one of them meant South County to me quite as much as 
any aboriginal Robinson of them all. Owen Wister died 
only a few weeks ago and we lost something that belonged 
to us as much as to the church which is in Philadelphia. 
For forty years he had given me every reason to love him 
that an older man can give a younger one. He was invari- 
ably gay, his conversation, light at first blush, always gave 
me something to remember, and his criticism, favorable or 
otherwise, of my books was the most valuable imaginable, 
because he came at a success or a failure from the standpoint 
of a skilful writer. His dinner table at Crowfield was a place 
where beautiful courtesy and delicious talk were as endemic 
as the plague on a Chinese waterfront. And if there is a 
thing I am proud of, it is that he was used during the last 
few years to invite me formally to dinner with him a deux 
at Long House in Bryn Mawr. No man ever gave another a 
better time than he gave me. A simple meal, a bottle of 

234 



SOUTH COUNTY 

Hermitage, and brandy under the noble Reynolds portrait 
of his great-great-great-aunt, Mrs. Siddons, while he dis- 
coursed on Poe, or the West before barbed-wire, would set 
up any man for a year. No one can mourn the departure 
of that wit and courtesy more than I. 

The true believers have brought us nothing but good. 
But we are forced by another sect to know that we are a 
summer resort. The whole incomparable shore is held by 
the enemy from June to September. Happily they are timid 
and seldom go far from the captured beaches. But wher- 
ever they do go, locusts warping on the Eastern Wind are 
not more terrible than they. Whether in the Rolls or in the 
1934 Chevrolet they are apt to be flies in the ointment and 
frogs in the chamber. And I fancy that even tradesmen who 
profit from the horde, nourish secret regrets, in spite of 
ledgers in the black. Because of them gas-station springs up 
by gas-station. Their rustic retreats have their front lawns 
in the back yards of their neighbors. The bill-board ob- 
scures or destroys a view, and their car-radios bellow the 
imbecile lyrics of the hour. What they can do to destroy the 
amenities they do or at any rate attempt. To quote Walter 
Lippmann, quoting Aristophanes, "Whirl is king/' and his 
bastard son Swing is master of ceremonies. Yet every stratum 
of society seems to be having a less entertaining time than 
it might, except for actual athletes on the courts and the 
links, who are in a sense getting what the land has to offer. 
When a bunch of subdebs spend an hour on the beach dis- 
cussing the personal advantages of a life-guard, the polite 
explanation is that they are not having a pleasant summer. 
The Adonis is evidently a surrogate for something missing. 
And by that I don't imply that the young persons are erot- 
ically starved. I should say that was the least of their trou- 
bles. But evidently they have lost touch with something nec- 
essary and blunder after a substitute. 

Those people don't know our small exquisite rivers and 

2354: 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

our incredible lakes, and wouldn't care if they did. They 
are ignorant of water-meadows studded with orchids, and 
of swamps that are the last kick of the rhododendron as they 
are the southern limit of the Arctic hare. They lost the 
oriole at the Beach Club and the tanager at a hot-dog stand. 
Waves of laurel in the Polydore underwood, not being for 
sale by Abercrombie and Fitch, are without value. And 
worst of all the people of the region, whose wisdom and 
idiom are alike originally charming, are, in the sight of the 
locusts, unreal quaint creatures who know nothing of the 
glories of the Iridium Room or the bar of the Queen Mary. 

Indian Summer is doubly delightful when the pest has 
departed. Then life resumes its pleasant rhythm, no longer 
oppressed by a spurious substitute. The maple goes red and 
yellow, the oak russet, and the savin has more than ever its 
veiled Egyptian mystery. The land is fresh and clean, a place 
where a myth might be born, and at any rate simplicity can 
live undisturbed till the next infestation. 

There is no way to express the love which the true 
nympholept, native or foreign-born, has for the low hills, 
the lakes, the rivers, and the woods. Horace touched the 
same emotion in the Seventh Ode, and I say after him: 
"Others may praise towered Manhattan, or San Francisco 
of the Sunset Sea. But Chicago, city of the steer, nay of the 
hog, is not for me, nor Washington, destined goal of the 
crafty-minded. No, give me the brown shadows where wild 
azalea lets fall her veil above a black pool of the Queens 
River, as also a wholly nondescript house shut in by oak 
and beech and dripping in Atlantic mist." 



236 



XVIII 



FISHING 



QUEEN'S RIVER 

These three are at my command, 

Fisherville, Hathaway , Sunderland. 

Each of them a shadowy mile 

Of innocence and beauty and guile, 

Reaches of river that we reach 

By learning what no wit can teach. 

Under the laurel overhang 

I know what song the Sirens sang, 

And there my fly may lightly drop, 

Or catch and be damned in the maple-top. 

There I may tease wild lightning out 

Of water black as the cuttle-gout. 

There, if the cross fates shatter the charm 

I may cast and cast till I break my arm. 

And there, while the darning-needles poise, 

I may melt and make no noise, 

And, moving less like man than dream, 

Myself may te stream into the stream," 

Where waters rush, where waters rest, 

And all's unguessed. 

THIS chapter may have one merit denied its predecessors. 

237 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Unless my powers are greater than I suppose, I do not see 
how it can irritate anyone, however much it may bore per- 
sons not interested in the art with which it deals. Like better 
men before me I am disposed to defend the art, but for 
once I am not anxious to seek a quarrel with people who see 
no virtue in it. That is one of the things one learns from 
an art. 

Fishing, particularly fly-casting for trout or salmon, has of 
late years come to mean for me a sort of physical extension 
of poetry. It is a great deal more than a pastime. It carries 
one into a region wider than sport. It is not a mere recrea- 
tion or change in the routine mode of things. It is not some- 
thing vaguely therapeutic, a connection with that nature 
dimly worshiped by hunters and ski-clubs. It is all these 
things of course but a great deal more, and it is positive, 
transcending the weak limits of escape. One goes to it. One 
does not flee to it. And it combines the virtue of sport, 
which is the perfecting one's-self in practice and theory, 
with a species of education which began to be lost when 
they walled the first city on the plains of Mesopotamia. As 
far as I am concerned it renews the circulation in atrophied 
parts of my nature. For it takes men back to places they 
ought never to have left, to abandoned and, it may be, 
archaic shrines in the mind, which now stand forlornly far 
away from the four-lane highways, on which our thought 
so-called goes mechanically up and down. Gardening at 
which, not having a green thumb, I am wont to mock with 
more than customary virulence, I suppose, does the same for 
its votaries. But secretly, in the midst of my laughter and 
glee, I sympathize with ladies in whose eyes I detect the 
insane gleam. If in their folly they prefer Pomona, whose 
lover wooed her disguised as an elderly woman, what might 
they not say of me who worship Proteus of the gleaming 
herds, whom Hercules had a tough time holding down? 

One defense of fishing must be given up at once, in spite 

238 



FISHING 

and in the teeth of Isaac Walton. It is not a meditative sport. 
No great thoughts come to the angler while he is angling. 
He is too involved in an immediate problem. A man who 
is thinking of something else, his business, women, poetry, 
properly speaking, isn't fishing. He may be preparing him- 
self for these experiences on the principle that he who loseth 
his life shall find it, if he is dealing justly by the art, but 
not for any thought that he takes. The genuine fisherman 
is at grips with matters complex enough to absorb the intel- 
lectual energies of Einstein, who, I venture to guess, at the 
tiller of his knockabout, thinks only of filling his sail and 
not at all of the general theory of relativity. What fishing 
actually does for a man is to energize him through and 
through by taking him into unexploited tracts of his own 
nature, just as it takes him along material streams and 
among tangible woods. "To live with sensation rather than 
thought, by images rather than by words," has the effect 
of aerating the mind. No wonder great trout live where 
white water cataracts into the dark pool. No man ever came 
out of the New Brunswick woods without a shift in what he 
supposed to be his permanent slant. 

Forty years, perhaps in vain, I have exposed myself to 
such possibilities. I began in the orthodox manner with a 
worm and much boredom. I was a timid little boy and so 
helpless that the gardener's sister, Anne the kind, always 
dug the worms for me. I loathed threading the wretched 
night-walkers on the barbed iron. And I got no particular 
kick out of the dorsal spines of the yellow perch, which I 
perceived had special meaning for me. In fact I was dubious 
about the occupation. But one lowering, dark, late-autumn 
afternoon, when the woods round Peace Dale Pond were 
drawn in India ink against the grisaille of a northeaster, I 
dropped my line into the somber water where the canal 
runs out at the end of the dam. The big sycamore called 
"Benny Rodman's Horsewhip" has seen no stranger sight 

239 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

since Benny thrust the switch which sprouted into the 
ground a hundred and thirty years ago. My bob went 
under, and I heaved after the manner of small boys with 
small fish. But this was different. Out of the water came the 
head and shoulders of a large pickerel, possibly a two- or 
three-pounder. The bamboo cane broke under the strain, 
and the monster fled, no doubt to nurse a wound that among 
pickerel would put him in a class with Amfortas. Thor 
when he had drawn the head of the Midgard-snake up from 
the great deep to the gunwale, and Loki, "first and worst of 
guides," cut the line, knew no greater grief than I. The 
horror of that failure might have defeated me forever, but, 
unlike Thor, I was indemnified within a few moments by 
the capture of the largest yellow perch I ever saw a thir- 
teen-inch giant of his kind, who went quite well with 
Johnny-cake next morning. That storm-crowned afternoon 
did my business. Hitherto I had merely flirted, but now I 
had lost my maidenhead, and not only that, for I looked 
forward with pleasure and excitement to the life of degra- 
dation thus opened before me. 

The whole sordid story can now be foreseen the splen- 
deurs et miseres, as for instance the dreadful scene at La 
Hulpe in Belgium, when I casually tossed a three-quarter 
pound trout twenty feet up into a tree with Armand Sol- 
vay's twelve-guinea Hardy. The creature dangled a moment 
and fell back into his stream. But what I do not forget is 
the infinite treasure of rolling r's which Armand crowded 
into the little room of Sapristi, as he beheld the ghastly act. 
In disgrace I was set to fish for ignoble carp. But Armand 
Solvay was magnanimous and a sportsman. Months later he 
sent word to a boy who had very likely sprung his Hardy 
for him, that he had caught that trout. 

However, that was only a disgraceful interlude. The mag- 
nificent lake at Holderness engrossed me for many sum- 
mers. What is called gin-clear water and a rocky sandy bot- 

240 



FISHING 



torn are propitious to the small-mouthed black bass. It is 
true that I still ran a-whoring after live bait and that the 
high aspects of the sport were hidden or ignored. Neither 
to plug nor to fly will a great bass rise in Squam Lake after 
July first. And I contented my immature appetency with 
the molasses-spewing grasshopper and the loathly but more 
cleanly hellgramite. I think I was more than eight feet high 
when I walked into the hotel dining-room after taking my 
first two-pounder (more justly one and three-quarters). It 
is in fact a surprising experience. The little creature is sav- 
agely violent and ingenious, and when you play one, fan- 
tastic comparisons to express his valor and artifice auto- 
matically crowd the mind. The salmonidae have only got 
him just beaten, if at all, and one respects the heroic. 

It was well before the age of outboard motors. Whatever 
was accomplished was by way of the white ash breeze. But 
I am glad I had hundreds of five-mile rows up the lake 
before sunrise. You pay in stench and racket for the econ- 
omy of elbow grease. I am perfectly sure I had the best of 
it. Dramatically that phase of existence came to an end on 
our honeymoon, with the capture of a four-and-a-half- 
pounder, the largest bass taken or seen for years. He fought 
me to a standstill, but nevertheless was exchanged, as too 
much for two persons, for his weight in sugar and coffee at 
an adjoining camp. 

Fishing was hardly feasible on an instructors salary and 
a lacuna stands in the record for nearly ten years. I even 
thought I was cured of the vice. But once a courtesan always 
a courtesan. When I resigned, I found myself as eager for 
assignations as ever, in spite of initial discouragement. 
Nothing less likely to make one regard fishing as a sport 
than an attack on the Eel River in California in 1926 could 
be imagined. For ten mortal days three of us watched the 
great armor-clad steel-head lying in squadrons m their 
pools of chalcedony and jasper. Their motionless effrontery 

241 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

cowed us. An average of one-sixth of a strike a day will take 
the edge off a zealot. And that we were compelled to endure 
as the reward of perpetual violent effort. My brief connec- 
tion with one of the giants still humiliates me, when it 
returns in memory invariably associated with the recollec- 
tion of other and more important incapacity. I struck him 
in a sort of miniature gorge of the Indus, where very likely 
La Branche himself would have made sad work of it, but 
when the leader broke, I felt that an officer and a gentleman 
would have taken immediate measures to have himself 
court-martialed and shot. 

A year later the Klamath was no better, quamvis gratis- 
simus amnis. I know no lordlier stream, dark under tre- 
mendous heights. The ten-pounders leaped so that they 
splashed me as I cast. Nothing could drown the memory of 
that insolence, and neither spinner, nor fly, nor even the 
vulgarity of a live crawfish, could move the creatures to 
co-operate. My heart was disquieted within me, as if the 
gods yet worshiped in those mountains had become my 
enemies. There was, however, one curious by-product of 
that bootless venture. The Indian woman, wife of the old 
engineer at whose camp we lodged, discovered John Brown's 
Body on my bureau, while she was making the beds. She 
borrowed it, and though she could barely read, was charmed 
by the poem, as any intelligent person naturally would be. 
Stephen Bent had every right to be pleased when I told 
him that a really American reader had liked his book. How 
few contemporary poets have been able to reach at once 
the modern man who thinks he's complex and the savage 
who certainly is! 

Unhouseled, disappointed, unannealed, Chauncey Good- 
rich and I fled from those mysterious and unprofitable 
gorges into Oregon where we were made free of the Paradise 
of the Mackenzie. There at length I grew acquainted with 
the dry fly. I am not likely to forget the strange, sliding, 

242 



onyxine floors of river; oh which my line at length achieved 
a reasonably decent distance, adcuracy/ and float/ not the 
unexampled shocbwhen a fair-sizied rairibow catae out of 
water and down on the "bine' upright/* Also I strtici my 
first salmon with shameful restilts that restored b ttie my 
original sense of inferiority, wttich had wafned because of a 
day or two of triumph, 1 iMilo the guide's -"bittei^coinment 
was: "Now I don't care if you never hit anything more in 
the river/' I knew I desdrveSi it: *Bufc thfc fact is? He grieVed 
for me in his heart. < <; :^i ? , ; ; ?^ * * ': 

A day or two after that disaster, the rainfeow abs&lutefy 
ceased from troubling, after the manner ofraintioW: No* Sy 
that ever was tied could charm them;t^as it : cast never so 
wisely. Milo produced a rod of -his own witli va'SJwfuier, and 
I laid my own good weapon down with: a feeling that a white 
slaver was a Christian gentleman compared witH nue. 'It's all 
right," he said, "Dolly Varden won't touch a^fly, but you'll 
have fun." He held the boat abbVe aB eddy* and 'I let the 
line out into the whirl. The effects : werp litoeialy shocking. 
Fifteen minutes later we landed one k of the great carnivdrotts 
chars, after a battle that left me trembling; It warlike ^being 
in a fight with a desperate and ingenious* man. We gbt An- 
other not quite so large and called it a da jr. My ?cup was full. 
It was our last crack at the Mackenzie/ and^I for mte was 
satisfied. "What do you think of that outfit?"! asfofd Milo, 
as I picked up the fly-rod on which the giants* had "ntir been 
taken. "It's a peach," he said. "Well, Milo, it's yoiirs.'* Hifc 
answer, accepting the gift, has always ^pleased me fof its 
appreciative delicacy: "I didn't expect thatl?' "' * ' } 

To Milo, beyond his other benefits toWard^^' 1 owed 
what seems to me a vivid picture of conditions of life I haVe 
not myself seen. We had gone ashore for lunoh^tod 'I'tated 
him idly whether he took any interest in boxing a sttfcfect 
which at the moment commanded the attention lofc iliiiety 
million Americans. "No," he said meditatiwly,? <f oime'l0 

243 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

think of it, I did some once. Feller here in town, good 
friend of mine now. I got his girl away from him. And that 
was all right, but I talked out of turn. He could outbox me, 
but I could outwrastle him. You oughter seen my face. Had 
a beefsteak on it a week. At the end of the fight, I got under 
his guard and threw him. I got on top of him and got me a 
rock about as big as my fist. And then you know they have 
to be good." 

That glimpse of local methods of settling difficulties, with- 
out reference to the picayune principles of the Marquis of 
Queensberry, had some queer value in my sight. It is better 
to know what men really are. Privately I determined to have 
no immedicable differences with Milo, a delightful example 
of the delightful race of guides. 

It's a long way from the tributaries of the Willamette to 
the Miramichi. The New Brunswick river is to the Macken- 
zie as the Amazon to the Hudson. It is wider and deeper 
with a more headlong and fatal power in its brown channel. 
The pole and the paddle are still the symbols and instru- 
ments of triumph. Roads are few, far between, and reason- 
ably bad in a province as large as New England, with a 
population smaller than Rhode Island's. The rivers dom- 
inate everything. They are Life and not infrequently Death, 
and they are very often the ultimate extreme in sport. 

To Howard, where a train stops thrice a week and where, 
nevertheless, the station agent managed to collide with it in 
his Ford, I came conducted by an experienced cousin, Pierre 
Hazard, who brought me to battle in a mile-long pool with 
the salmon of the Atlantic. It is already cold in those lati- 
tudes in September. But the sweet wild country at the mouth 
of the Cains, with its pine, birch, and maple was beautiful 
and wet under the chill, dark, autumn cloud. When the first 
grilse struck I supposed life held no more. I haven't a doubt 
that the desperate thing was five feet above the pallid waters, 
not once but many times. The great arching leaps all round 

244 



FISHING 

the canoe made one's innards pole-vault. And the creature's 
furious energy will never be described. Quenching such a 
savage fire trieth the heart and reins. I could not believe 
that it could be surpassed. But I was to unlearn that error 
swiftly. 

To employ the classic figure, I have never shot a tiger or 
harpooned a whale. I don't know what it means to wait for 
the charging elephant, before giving him the second barrel. 
But despite my inexperience, I venture to think that noth- 
ing in the strange category of sport can exceed the shock of 
your first salmon's strike. It is like the unsealing of seals 
and the blowing of trumpets. It is death and damnation and 
hell and confusion. It is like holding a runaway nightmare 
with a pack-thread. The hopeless feeling when he leaps and 
crashes four hundred feet away, the exultation when he fol- 
lows it in and you reel desperately, only to find that he came 
merely from policy or curiosity, are parts of a real drama. 
Time is divided into particles, each particle containing a 
shot at a tiger, generally a miss. And this succession of vio- 
lent shocks may continue for hours, during which your con- 
scious life, if it be conscious, is altered in kind and in degree. 
Railway folders and anglers, who should know better, always 
throw in the "scream of the reel" somewhere in the dithy- 
ramb, but there is a stranger sound which I do not remem- 
ber to have seen mentioned, the low, soft, menacing hum 
that comes out of vibrating split-bamboo subjected to the 
last tension it can stand. 

The first fish I struck was a ten- or twelve-pounder. I 
fought him dead during forty-five minutes of fury that 
would have sufficed to take a warship by boarding. He 
turned on his back in the roiled water. Harry Boyce, the 
perfect guide, stood poised and alert with the net. I was a 
yard or two above him on the greasy, red, trampled bank, 
shivering, soaked to the skin, with both arms numb, yet with 
enough sensation in them to feel as if they had been broken 

245 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

off at the elbows. With extreme caution and the minimum 
o tension, I drew the prize toward the net. Nearer, nearer, 
two feet, a foot, six inches when naturally the hook pulled 
out of the worn cartilage of the upper jaw. The English 
equivalent of the mot de Cambronne is as useless as it is 
ugly, and as usual did nothing to help matters. 

Next day I landed not one but two of approximately 
fourteen pounds apiece, feeling as if a secular curse had been 
lifted, and that the gods of the wilderness were placated at 
last. For every man in the world it is essential that at some 
time they should be placated. More human grief is due to 
the failure to attend to this than the wise always admit or 
the clever ever imagine. The experienced Pierre Hazard had 
fared ill during my initial defeat and double victory. He 
was to have the noblest of revenges. The sixteen-pounder 
that struck at five in the afternoon, and was landed by 
lantern-light at seven minutes before eight, after going into 
the backing fourteen times, was as imperial a creature as 
ever bent rod and certainly indemnified him richly for his 
private agonies. It was a sow-salmon, and the last moments 
of the struggle looked like the murder-scene in a Gordon 
Craig version of The Duchess of Malfi. On a rock where a 
bogan swirled stood Pierre, "there like a Roman statue," 
for a stricken hour. The wet arc of the rod gleaming like 
permanent lightning against his breast, the assassin look of 
the guide peering at the troubled stream when she came in 
for the last time, the uprush of the net as it whipped out of 
the water with its burden of silver it was macabre and 
superb. 

Cover the face. Mine eyes dazzle. She died young. 

Between Pierre and myself since that tremendous three 
hours a secular contest rages. On mere number, taken over 
a period of years, he is well up, as he deserves to be by virtue 
of more artistic and less eccentric casting. But it was I who 

246 



FISHING 

killed the giant, twenty-one and a half pounds, snatched 
from the jaws of a log-drive in a bight of the beautiful Cains. 
Even Ruskin once admitted that size does count. 

If European dictators could be induced to run the Cains 
River in the spring, Spanish cities would not be bombed for 
sport. The idea is very old, but not falser for that reason. 
To sleep on beds of arbutus fifteen feet across, to wake at 
three in the morning and see even the southern sky pulsing 
scarlet with the Aurora, to feast on salmon-chowder and 
like delicacies which wood or river permit, to watch the 
bull-moose with his mastodon look swank into the vapor- 
breathing river for his morning drink, and to hear sweet 
voices calling on an unknown God named "Old Sam Pea- 
body," these things please me greatly. And if by good for- 
tune against such a background one becomes attached to 
a spirited fish, certain aspects of the mind are developed and 
intensified into not undesirable change. But it is noticeable 
that no dictator has ever been a sportsman. If he had been, 
he would not be a dictator, for the adequate reason that he 
was born a professional, particularly when it comes to 
"blood-sports." It is a curious fact, pointed out to me by a 
manufacturer of fishing-lines, that practically no convinced 
fishermen are in prison. Professional criminals hunt, but 
never fish. No doubt these remarks are so trivial that they 
approach the edge of the meaningless. Nevertheless, my small 
pleasures have meant enough to me to make me wish they 
meant more to others. One can be warped out of human 
semblance by what one considers important, and restored to 
modest normality by what many judge to be of no signifi- 
cance. I have what I consider a life-purpose. I am not a bit 
troubled by the fact that at times I have put it by in favor 
of what no man is apt to regard as a definite object. How- 
ever ill I may achieve my desire, what I do will be no worse, 
because I once stood up to my thighs in a Wyoming river, 
while a rainbow on my line leaped against three pale blue 

247 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

peaks of the Sawtooth Range. Guilty of many things as I 
have been, of erroneous thought, of imperfect feeling, of 
pretentiousness and the ignorance which begat it, of senti- 
mentality and injustice, I am disposed to agree with a better 
man who said that evil never came to anyone because of a 
brown hackle dropped with reasonable competence on run- 
ning water. 

I have summed the whole business up in a short poem, on 
which no doubt those who write prolegomena to any future 
poetry, who misquote Verlaine quite as they misconstrue 
him, and who carry on their caf-vendettas apart from na- 
ture as from art, will come down with the crushing weight 
of their contempt. I cannot help it if they do, and shan't 
mind much. Here is the poem in all its naked deformity. 

SALMON FISHING 

My hand will have lost its cunning 

And be dust or ash. 

But the salmon will be running 

And the moose will smash 

Through the young birches for the old reason 

In rutting season. 

And on the river there will be a stranger, 

Down the brown eddy 

Flicking the "Jock Scott" or the "Durham Ranger" 

Who will feel the heady 

Unreasonable passion, lightning-like, 

At the strike. 

And my frail will imperious, 

Long overpast, 

Will not concern him, where, alert and serious, 

He leans to cast 

"George Allen's Fancy," or "Cains River Streamer," 

Bright undefeated Dreamer! 

248 



* XIX 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

With Some Mention of Poets 



NEW WORDS TO OLD MUSIC 

This world stands under an evil star, 
And I read the litany of Dunbar, 
And the term of beauty and poetry. 
Timor mortis conturbat me. 

That befell him, which must befall, 
The splendid Mistral, flower of them all 
That in our times have chanted free. 
Timor mortis conturbat me. 

There was Francis Thompson grieving and praying, 
That hearkened the hound of Heaven baying. 
Yet he suffered and vanished, as needs must be. 
Timor mortis conturbat me. 

What secret terror could maim and stun 
The valiant soul of John Davidson, 
When the runnable stag must sink in the seal 
Timor mortis conturbat me. 

Hellas and Troyland quaked and shook 
When the mort was blowing for Rupert Brooke 

249 < 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

And an end to courage and courtesy. 
Timor mortis conturbat me. 



And Elinor Wylie's body broken 

Ere the last of the noble utterance was spoken, 

That was too lovely ever to be. 

Timor mortis conturbat me. 

How came the lightning and hurricane 
To havoc the, spirit of ,poor Hart ^rane? 
Go ask of tKe cotiatt Cdrib sea! 
Timor mortis conturbat me. 

They wrote their hearts out royal and red. 
They sang their morning song. Now they are dead. 
And we 
Timor mortis 



As HAS been said before ^oeitry hiefecl^rib d^Kh^e/ But after 
a delicious afternodfi 1 "between laurel arict "flag-flower on a 
stream where the dry fly worked' alf its charm/ i came into 
my study and found myself writing one. Th^t.is o say I 
found myself setting; dp^n^^^ what 

I have lived for, an4*a^put, cerjaip meri cind wome^i, who, 
whatever their differences/^ ipte^t 3^^., ^ppTO&cjh, have 
lived for the same thing. Those random thoughts, amplified 
and I hope those; closely knit^oiake up this final, chapter. 
Poetry, as 'itiiis^ be tW casfewith whatever really ^eiigrosses, 
has been s 'my'bles ! smg and' riiy ctrfse: When "I was ^wholly 
unaware, it made my pleasiiW j^'iiit^nkaetfiy^giriet It is 
forty years since the ? first ver sesame haltingly from the end 
of my pencil. ll Vl is ^ne^iy" thirty ^iiipe my 1 first" book was 
printed. Ir^ those three decades 1 Kaye.putllisiiecl rather more 
than two tEousand pages of yerse^ li^ht,^ he^tvyi tragical, com- 
ical, historical, pastoral, scene undividable, or poem unlim- 
ited. With luck sh^all publish two thousand moreTTT^o some 
I could 3^ t a^^ thte, f:o^ir^\o| jcpjr,' labors 

' 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 



I have known every aspect of hope and despair, the former 
during brief and widely separated intervals, the latter like 
an exorbitant and jealous mistress. I am familiar with un- 
known ecstasies and singular varieties of pain. Passions high 
and low go hand in hand with the practice of the art. And I 
have been flushed with generous admiration which became 
me, and have burnt with squalid envy which did not. Pos- 
sibly because of some increase in wisdom, but more probably 
because of a mere automatic better adjustment, I have to 
some extent outgrown the latter, though I fear I am apt to 
overvalue such small triumphs as I have known, and am 
still capable of running down those I have not. 

Naturally, a man thinks about his life-interest a good deal, 
often to very little purpose, and though I claim no authority 
on the subject beyond my neighbor's, I have some views 
which I do not fear to state. In the first place I think poetry 
is a matter of the very first importance to all mankind, as 
important as science and religion, with both of which it has 
affinities. That many people, and by no means stupid ones, 
do not think so, is one of my reasons for believing that it is 
essential to have faith in the attempt to create poetry. When 
so influential a writer as Spengler lets loose the notion that 
a man in these times ought to turn from the contemptible 
manufacture of sonnets and devote his attention to the Im- 
provement of internal combustion motors, he is a blessed 
fellow. His mind keeps to the highroad as well as any man's. 
I hold no particular brief for sonnets or any other ancient 
form. But if he means that poetry has perished, I shall be 
interested to know what pleasure a man is apt to derive 
from the strange countries into which his new motor will 
ferry him The question has been asked before. Technology, 
doubtless, may improve itself forever, though it too ha, its 
shadow, but if the leisure which technology increases does 
not find bright pleasures, it will find dull ones, winch would 
be too bad. Furthermore, it would set a limit on any future 

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advance. If the beauty of language and the interconnection 
between such heights and deeps as there are in man, cease to 
be honored and recognized, why not return to the gorilla 
and be done with it? After all the gorilla is not intellectually 
much inferior to, and has more natural grace than, quite a 
number of my acquaintance. 

To many people nowadays, poetry seems an archaic and 
artificial form of expression. It is felt that language and 
thought must suffer when subjected to modes so strict 
and arbitrary. It is not realized how infinitely language and 
thought gain, when, though subjected to such modes, they 
transcend them. The poets have in part themselves to thank 
for the present attitude. In the first place, of course, they 
have written a great deal of poor stuff in the old forms. And 
language which is merely metrical is horrible. In the second, 
they have written still worse stuff in the new formlessness. 
Out of the deliquescence of expression catalyzed by the 
genius of Whitman (no innuendo is intended) very little 
that is bound to be remembered has issued. Form is abso- 
lutely necessary to poetry. And merely to have a yen for 
self-expression is meaningless in the connection unless it be 
allied with the succinct and the compact. 

Christ! What are patterns forf 

Ryder once observed to me that a strict form was like the 
rails which keep a train that is going somewhere, on the 
track. Naturally there must be some development of 
B. T. U.s in the locomotive. And, of course, the track is no 
good if there is no train. There was a mighty outcry against 
all fixed form whatever twenty years ago a somewhat nat- 
ural reaction against the farded elegance of the nineties. 
But it is curious to watch the principal protagonists drift 
back to the fold, to see Alfred Kreymborg composing son- 
nets that wouldn't have astonished Alfred Tennyson, and to 
see John Gould Fletcher writing lyrics in which Longfellow 

252 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

would have perceived no novelty. These things have hap- 
pened. And they had to, for in the long run sensible men 
have got to accept what is archetypal. And if there is any- 
thing archetypal in us at all, it is the disposition toward 
measured rhythm. As I have said elsewhere, it is as much a 
part of us as the disposition to eat meat is part of a tiger. 
The primitive rhythm in any night-club may be crude, but 
it is inescapable. And the highest things cannot be expressed 
at all except in rhythms more refined but cognate. The 
minute that emotion, high or low, enters the picture, 
rhythm (and I mean the especial rhythm of verse as con- 
trasted with the endless tunk-a-tunk of prose) is bound to be 
there. Faust once made the point that there is no great 
tragedy except in verse. And in spite of Tchekhoff and 
Ibsen, the point seems to me well taken. Incidentally, why 
did Ibsen write Peer Gynt in verse? 

One point that it seems to me worth while making is this. 
Like all things human, poetry has a body and a soul. I don't 
like those words, especially the second because of its odor of 
unnecessary and second-rate sanctity. But I have to use them, 
because they are shorter than the phrases I might conjure 
up in their places. By the body I, of course, mean the actual 
words uttered in speech or printed on paper. By the soul I 
mean, not so much the idea or notion, that a poem may or 
may not convey, as the spirit that informs the words, a hard 
thing to describe, but something which is felt at once by 
whoever is sensitive to such radiations. Now with respect to 
a human, living creature it has been quite generally asserted, 
if not believed, that body and soul are of about equal 
importance (such dubious questions as the greater perma- 
nence of the less tangible entity being left out of considera- 
tion) A celebrated philosopher, by many believed to be an 
expert on the subject, implies somewhere that if you pay 
too much attention to the soul you run in some danger of 
losing it altogether. In spite of which his followers have 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

often, in the teeth of their teacher's example at a famous 
wedding when he arranged for extra wine, encouraged 
among the more feeble-minded brethren a perfectly absurd 
neglect of the body. And such ideas are what keep laboring 
the point, that body and soul are necessary to each other, 
from being wholly absurd. They connect, they interact, and 
this connection and interaction is as true of poetry as it is 
of the living man, of whom poetry should be a special re- 
flection in light from a not quite usual tract of the spectrum. 

This banal analogy, which I cannot prevent the reader 
from undervaluing if he likes, seems to me to lead to certain 
inferences, as, for instance, that at the moment we are suffer- 
ing from overemphasis of each of the opposed tendencies. 
Men can be found without difficulty, who will go off the 
deep end about the spirit of liberation of, say, Rimbaud, 
who proclaimed and exacted every form of freedom. Those 
persons seldom notice that Rimbaud's best poems without 
exception obey metrical laws whose rigidity would have hor- 
rified Longfellow. I'm not adducing this as a reason for 
obeying metrical laws, many of which are, or have become, 
silly, as the motives, which at one time made them obliga- 
tory, grow less compulsive or disappear altogether. 

Historically English poetry is a mixed affair. Teutonic 
rhythms, governed by Latin traditions, and subjected to 
Arabic patterns,* make up a sufficiently complex compound. 
If the body, as opposed to the soul, is to live and grow, new 
and to us strange varieties of rhythm are bound to appear. 
But nothing is without its reason. And before what has been 
is read out of court, what is definitely to be must make its 
footing good. I happen to believe that much of what looks 
arbitrary and irrational, rhyme for instance, is often as 
rooted in our natures as anything whatever that is rooted 

* This statement has only recently come to be believed. But I think that 
no argument will stand against the thesis that the Moor at Cordova gave 
to the Troubadour at Toulouse the varied stanzas that appear in all the 
modern European tongues. 

254 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

there. This in the teeth of Milton's preface to Paradise LosL 
No one has suffered more in this connection than I, who 
have actually endured agonies, wondering whether it was 
lawful to submit to "the troublesome and modern bondage 
of rhyming," or whether the poet should eschew it alto- 
gether. To the layman the whole question may seem ridic- 
ulous, but if you are as close to it as one whose highest hope 
is to write poetry, the problem becomes a bitter moral 
enigma. It seems to me that rhyme justifies itself on strange 
irrational grounds, just as meter does. But it is clear that 
when I fell into that slough of bewilderment, I had forgot- 
ten my thesis and was too preoccupied about the body of 
poetry. In the same way one may grow too preoccupied by 
the soul, and, aware of some informing spirit, not take suffi- 
cient thought as to how it may shine forth. 

To make some sort of a summary, good poets endeavor to 
play fair with both soul and body, and frequently succeed 
and frequently fail, which explains why there are magnifi- 
cent places in Pope just as there are horrible ones in Keats, 
both of whom, antipathetic as the first was to the second, 
are particular gods of my particular idolatry. And this leads 
me to another general point, on which I have some right to 
speak, as one who has read practically the whole body of 
English poetry and a great deal in other languages. Of what 
is called poetry, and by that I mean poetry that will not 
willingly be allowed to die, an enormous part is in a sense 
tosh, necessary tosh, but tosh. It is a tall poet indeed, one- 
tenth of whose song is at his height. Milton, whose intended 
wing did not sweep so high as two or three of his great 
predecessors, is perhaps the one man in a thousand years of 
English verse, of whom it can be said that once on his way 
he scarcely ever wandered into the plains of bathos and 
ineptitude. Of none of his successors could such a statement 
be made. Who does not know the longueurs of Shelley, 
what can only be called the horrors of Wordsworth, or the 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

sick lapses of which Keats was only too often guilty? There 
is a sort of terror in the fact that properly to enjoy the oases, 
you must wander in the deserts of "The Faerie Queene." 
Too often the reader must recognize that the medium has 
defeated the artist, and forgive him where he staggers under 
his convention or, what is quite as bad, the lack of it. For 
only if the reader is willing to take the rough with the 
smooth, will he be rewarded by a vision of the pentecostal 
descent of the divine fire. Our slow but instructed fathers 
understood this. And as they mulled over the verses of the 
Victorians, often quite as bad as anything achieved now- 
adays, permitted themselves to be engaged by the high spots, 
often better than much of our contemporary performance. 
But our quick illiterate moderns have not got the idea that 
in an art so difficult it is not even permitted to genius in- 
variably to hit the nail. In fact they argue that genius hits 
the nail every time, quite oblivious that Horace noticed 
Homer's tendency to doze. This in a measure explains why 
the zealot contends that every line of Ezra Pound's is instinct 
with perpetual fire, and not a syllable of Auden's but is the 
Platonic ideal of wit. If Auden were Shakespeare you 
couldn't say that about him, any more than you could say it 
of Shakespeare, who, if there be a heaven, is probably telling 
Joan of Arc how much he regrets the tripe he wrote about 
her in Henry the Sixth. Where everything has some novel 
meretricious glitter, Cowley's forgotten couplet becomes 
apposite. 

Men doubt, because they stand so thick i 9 the sky, 
If those be stars which paint the Galaxie. 

I recently amused myself by designing a hell for persons de- 
voted to the type of criticism which I have dealt with in the 
preceding sentences. It will be equipped with every latest 
gadget except loud-speakers and radios. No expense will be 
spared and many simple amusements will be provided. But 

256 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

the only books available will be those in the Library of 
Heaven, which may be obtained at any time by filling out a 
card. This I believe is the meanest idea that ever occurred 
to a mind not incapable of cruelty. Where in the Inferno is 
there anything more appalling than condemning a critical 
hack to the eternal contemplation of Paradise Lost? 

Heretofore this chapter has dealt with generalities. I am 
now going to take up more particular matters. If, as I be- 
lieve, it is a sort of law that in the great poets there is often 
much chaff for little wheat, how much more must it apply 
to me? If there are forty among my forty thousand pub- 
lished lines that approximate the hope I had of every one of 
them, I shall be well satisfied. I may add that not one of the 
forty I should pick myself appear in the half page devoted 
to my performance in the new edition of Harriett's Familiar 
Quotations, though it is fair to admit that there is nothing 
Sinaitic about an author's estimate of his own work. "Come, 
I'll read you 'Maud/ You'll never forget it," said Tennyson 
to Henry Van Dyke, Henry Van Dyke being of all men the 
man least likely to forget "Maud." No compliment is in- 
tended, but the anecdote admirably illustrates the fact that 
a man may not know his best work. The gods, with indecent 
humor, permitted the laureate to believe himself a psychol- 
ogist. I wonder what they have fooled me into believing. 
Some people would say into believing that I was a poet. But 
my house, such as it is, is, in my own sight after forty years 
of labor, founded on one page in a wholly ignored book, a 
couple of songs, and an epitaph. And the blurbs say I am a 
satirist. Clearly I am. 

Which by an easy transition leads to what the blurbs say, 
in a word, to criticism, in the daily and weekly press. On the 
whole I have been gently used. Now and then I have been 
panned, and nobody likes that. But as a general rule I have 
had a tolerably good press. It is true I have been called a 
pedant and a snob. And it is also true that, though I hate 

257 : 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

Hitler as well as the best of them, I have been a special 
target o those racists who dwell on a mountain called 
"Kike's Pique." It is true that I have been told to go to 
school to T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, both of whom by 
taking unprofitable thought have subtracted more than a 
cubit from their natural stature. But on the other hand I 
have been immensely complimented. What bites me about 
the critics is not their cruelty but their incompetence. For 
example only one out of dozens perceived that The Legend 
of Quincibald was written in a measure as new (I will not 
say as beautiful) as Minerva when she issued from Jove's 
brain-case. The Voyage of Autoleon written in a similar 
meter was compared, with respect to verse structure, to 
"Locksley Hall" by a friendly reviewer. It is true that my 
line is long and so is Tennyson's. But the Autoleon line is 
paeonic with five stresses and the "Locksley Hall" measure 
is trochaic with eight. The verses resemble each other as a 
pick-axe resembles a broad-axe. Of course, prosody is the 
mere cut-and-dried anatomy of the tangible body of verse. 
But if they don't even understand that, there will be wild 
work when they presume to prescribe for the soul. And 
there is. 

A most favorable review of Naomi Mitchison's Cloud 
Cuckoo-Land in the virtuous but self-important New Re- 
public may stand for a summary and symbol of the whole 
silly business. The reviewer praised it to the skies. No one 
had captured the spirit of Athens during the Peloponnesian 
War so well as Mrs. Mitchison, which, judging by her briefer 
stories, was probably true. The only thing the critic found 
to cavil at was what he chose to call "the absurd and mean- 
ingless title." In that forcing-house of culture a man who 
had never heard of the Birds of Aristophanes was not 
ashamed to gas about "the Greek Spirit." And the hell of it 
is that every writer whatever, good or bad, encounters just 
that sort of critical imbecility every time he brings out a 

258 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

book. In England they now have the same animal, witness 
the critic in the Times who thought Ogden Nash had a good 
deal of humor, but that he was careless about his rhymes. In 
short, I have come to the sensible conclusion of Christopher 
Morley, whose rule is never to read a review. They don't 
help. They don't hinder. Their venom is innocuous and 
their praise is just as unimportant. And the public, whom 
they pretend to lead, pays hardly more attention to them 
than authors should. 

It is a favorite sport of not too famous or successful men 
of letters to run down the public mind. One suspects such 
testimony. If a thing is good it will ultimately make its way. 
If not, it ought not to have ultimate success. Though I have 
been resentful and sorrowful when too obviously ignored, 
I am not going to lay myself open to the sort of retort 
Voltaire made to Jean Baptiste Rousseau. Rousseau, who 
was a minor poet and not to be confused with Jean Jaques, 
was bitter against the public and told Voltaire that he was 
writing a letter to Posterity. "Ah," said Voltaire, "that letter 
will never reach its address." And bang went another beau- 
tiful friendship. My public is a very small one and, I hope, 
intensely intelligent, though that I cannot prove. I count 
my readers in fewer hundreds, than many of my friends, 
including poets, count thousands. At the outside I may have 
ten thousand readers of whom between five hundred and a 
thousand go to the extraordinary length of purchasing my 
volumes as they appear, A good many strangers write me 
from time to time, but you would hardly call it a fan-mail. 
The letters are often pleasant enough to make me arch my 
back and purr. However, I have it in for those subhuman 
things who enclose a three-cent stamp with a request for a 
holograph copy of a poem in one's own fist. Certain persons I 
believe collect my "firsts." If those bibliophiles were to go 
after my second editions, they would discover that they are 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

rarities, beside which the Gutenberg Bible looks like Gone 
with the Wind. 

Long ago I saw there was no money in it for me as for 
others. And I'm not a bit sorry for either. It is a good thing. 
This art ought to be outside the market-place. Ryder told 
me so long ago, but I think I always knew it. One wishes to 
please. And if a man does, and obtains a great material 
reward, why that is perfectly swell, and legitimate like a 
Nobel prize. But the poet never was born that could get it 
up to sell, in spite of the story of Firdausf and the sixty 
thousand gold-pieces. The French have made the only suita- 
ble arrangement with respect to poets. Somehow they man- 
age small bureaucratic jobs for them. Bourdet's joke about 
the man-of-letters, who after a huge success went back to his 
desk in the Ministry of Posts, because that was the only 
place where he could write undisturbed, has more than 
mirth in it. Theodore Roosevelt made a beginning when he 
gave E. A. Robinson a position in the Customs, with very 
little to do and enough to live on. What man of genius 
cduld ask for more? And in my opinion it would be worth 
any country's while, indirectly to encourage what cannot be 
encouraged directly. And God knows no men need encour- 
agement more. 

Poetry is the loneliest form of creation, for it is communi- 
cation almost in secret with one other at a time. Archie 
MacLeish and Vachel Lindsay are, of course, right in their 
contention that poetry ought to be declaimed to mobs in 
market-places, but it will always have its secret moment, 
when it is spoken by an immaterial voice in the mind, as it 
can never be uttered aloud. The painting and the statue are 
viewed by herds that exchange emotions with each other. 
But only the mad King of Bavaria heard music, as most 
people who love poetry hear poetry alone. And the attempt 
to satisfy yourself and at the same time make what will set 
up a vibration elsewhere is the most heart-breaking thing in 

260 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

the world. Thirty years ago a writer of parts reincarnated 
Keats at the moment of the creation of "The Eve of St. 
Agnes/ 1 That fallacious but convincing picture remains as 
far as I know the best description of how a poem comes on 
paper. And Kipling knew what he was talking about, cer- 
tainly in this instance. The symbol rises unheralded in the 
mind, as a fish rises to make a strange circle on the surface 
of motionless water. It had been there all the time, but what- 
ever it is that thinks it thinks was not aware of this. Sud- 
denly the mind is full of crystalline linkings. Unexampled 
relations are clear. The lines swirl up. They make them- 
selves. All day you labor and finally lie down with a feeling 
of triumph. Next morning you wonder what it was that you 
thought was so excellent in one more failure. Too often you 
have an uneasy sense that this is mere echo and tear it out 
and throw it away. Too often you don't. And once in three 
or four years you may feel about five or six lines that opin- 
ion is not very important, because those five or six lines are 
the top of what is permitted you to perform. I could count 
on my fingers the moments when I passed a gentle judgment 
on my own labor. That is a sufficient compensation. 

One incalculable reward poetry has brought me. It has 
put me in close and often affectionate relation with other 
lost adventurers, my peers or my betters. To that splendid 
and burning interest I owe many a charming encounter and 
many an unsullied friendship. 

Twenty-eight years ago that interest swept me into the 
delightful orbit of William Rose Benet, which already in- 
cluded Stephen his brother and Laura his sister and was to 
draw in the beautiful and mysterious elegance of Elinor 
Wylie. We were friends from that moment, often opposed 
in opinion, but never in feeling. And we have been together 
in the hard hour and the easy. Ben<t with his face of a 
medieval humorist, his quick, informed, and diverting mind, 

26l 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

is one of the best men as well as one of the best poets of the 
times, as anyone who has read "The Falconer of God" and 
"Perpetual Light" can tell at a glance. And my curse on the 
illiterate boneheads, who with banal imbecility bring against 
him the charge, fatal in their sight, that he is well read, as if 
the reading of great books were not a great human experi- 
ence. Certainly it never hurt a poet yet. I should like to 
know where Kubla Khan and The Ancient Mariner would 
be without Marco Polo, Bartram's Travels, and Shelvocke's 
Voyages. "Le Bateau Ivre" is no doubt the result of Rim- 
baud's study of the garbage pails of Charleville, and the 
child's remarkable vocabulary is clearly also the racy idiom 
of the gutter. If Benet is bookish then he is in damned good 
company. A great book is just as real to a man of cultivation 
as a lavatory in a brothel is to the new kind of critic. And 
though it be merciless to labor the point, it is well to men- 
tion a sonnet called "On First Looking into Chapman's 
Homer," on the whole a pretty good one. Keats had not 
"lived" one single image in his poem. Was he by when 
Herschel looked on Uranus? Had he stood with the explorer 
on the ridge of Panama? Yet he managed pretty well, in spite 
of half-baked school-teachers writing on the gynecology of 
the nine muses.* 

Stephen Bent I have known nearly as long, but not so 
continuously and well. If ever the fire came down, it came 
down on him. In my sight he has his moments of being 
definitely unequal to himself. I wish he had kept John 
Brown on his desk ten years instead of three. But how beau- 
tiful the great parts are, the invocation, the ending, the epi- 
sode of Mellora Vilas, the girl who turned into a frontier 
song. And what "a pleasurable American idiom" he has 
forged for his purpose! Daniel Boone will go by at night 
forever in this country, and Stephen Bent in my opinion is 

* "Ung, hath he slept with the aurochs? Watched where the mastodon 
roam?" 

262 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

going to be remembered as long as phantom deer arise In 
forests which will never glut sawmills. 

Elinor Wylie I only met occasionally. But she visited us 
in Peace Dale with Bill, and I had long talks with her in the 
study where I am writing this sentence. The various adjec- 
tives in common use to describe complex personalities are 
peculiarly valueless with respect to her. Beautiful extremely 
in person, with an intellect as sharp and straight as a sword, 
she was an extraordinary mixture of the resolute and the 
helpless, of the instructed and the naive. You never knew 
whether she was going to be dove or peacock. But she was 
charming either way, in her humility or in her arrogance. 
A lot has been written about her, all of it, it would seem, by 
persons who possessed the very heart of her mystery. I can 
only guess at the motives of as enigmatic a nature as I ever 
encountered. But this I may interject, that every essay I have 
seen about her made me retch, as I considered my own 
slight knowledge of her. She seemed to me a woman given 
up to poetry as Sappho was given up to it, literally possessed 
by a god as Cassandra was possessed. 

Oto-toto-toi Opollon hemosl 

It was as if there lived in her the spirit of a man whom she 
called Shelley, not a whit like the actual Shelley, but a sort 
of demon-child-lover. Her preoccupation was observed by 
certain of her more commonplace acquaintances, who drew 
material inferences, after their manner, with a good deal of 
imbecility and more impudence. It is my considered opinion 
that she was in love with the masculine part of her own 
nature. For a woman less gifted this would have been a mis- 
fortune, and a long step on the road to madness. But for her 
it was natural and fitting, because that was where the poetry 
lived. She once recited the sonnets that deal with the demon- 
child-lover to me, one of the very few times I've ever heard 
a poet recite really effectively. My intuition has often mis- 

263 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

led me, but if those poems are about an actual flesh-and- 
blood person who lives in a house somewhere, then Spenser's 
"Foure Hymnes to the Divine Beautie" are about a vulgar 
amour in a dive in Whitechapel. The immaterial power that 
dominated her and transformed her from a Washington 
debutante into one of the first poets of her time, was alto- 
gether different from, and wholly above, the speculations in 
which our rather sticky critics are too apt to indulge. 

Incidentally I have a really beautiful picture of her in my 
mind. When she visited us in Peace Dale, the gods, as if by 
design, put on the finest show that lies in their power. We 
had such an ice-storm as I have never seen before or since. 
Every twig in our woods had a sheath of silver. And that 
night it turned fine and clear. The four of us walked out to 
see the strange gleaming night. The darkness and the white- 
ness constructed a world that seemed especially made for her, 
and I fancied a resemblance between the silvery and rigid 
trees and her sharp and brilliant poetry. It seemed to me 
that the analogy was more real than a mere fancy. 

One quaint weakness Elinor Wylie had, beyond even the 
irritable race of poets. She frothed at the mouth at any 
comment not wholly approving. In what still seems to me an 
enthusiastic review of "In Black Armour," I had made one 
slight stricture. Some of the poems seemed to me needlessly 
obscure, because of images so individual as to be incompre- 
hensible, and to make my point, I quoted a line from the 
book: 

"My hand preserves a shape too utterly its own." 

When I met her first shortly after the appearance of this 
notice, she was silent for the space of half an hour. I was 
embarrassed and conscious of being examined by one who 
knew how. Suddenly and unexpectedly she spoke with great 
good humor: "I think we are going to get on. I was afraid I 
should hate you on account of that dreadful review." Later 

264 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

in the evening after I had praised some verses she recited, 
she turned on me with a leopardess look, almost screaming; 
"Now will you take it back?" It is something to have known, 
even so slightly, one who, many years in her grave, still seems 
stubborn to outstare the sky. 

In California, Sinclair Lewis, then on the verge of tri- 
umph, brought me acquainted with the singular and talented 
George Sterling, who had the profile of Dante, great powers, 
and no luck at all. I never understood why he could never 
bring it off. He may have lacked the humor essential to poets, 
particularly when their singing-robes are on. And I must 
confess that much of what impressed me then looks sadly 
pontifical now. Certainly Ambrose Bierce's ill-considered 
ballyhoo did nothing whatever to encourage in Sterling a 
disposition not to take himself too seriously. His gleaming 
virtuosity was expended on subjects which proved insuffi- 
cient. And he became a sort of Paganini, developing com- 
monplace themes with bursts of violinistic fireworks. Yet as 
a man he was simple and direct. And some of his shorter 
poems are well outside the condemnation suggested above. 
Also he was immensely catholic and generous in his mind. 
The pupil of Father Tabb was naturally an admirer of the 
Great Tradition, but that did not prevent him from being 
one of the first poets to recognize and proclaim the immense 
uneven powers of Robinson Jeffers. It is hateful to think of 
the gifted and powerful creature riding into an empty desert 
where he encountered only mirage, physical suffering, spir- 
itual starvation, and death by his own hand. But I should 
hesitate to set him below men who have not so early had 
the poppy of oblivion scattered over them. 

If I speak of Vachel Lindsay, it is not because I knew him, 
but because I heard him, and he meant to be heard. Further- 
more anyone who ever heard him ought to set down a record 
of the strange impression he produced. On the whole I think 
that Lindsay was one of those unfortunates who have tre- 

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

mendous vitality and personal force coupled with only mod- 
erate talent. He had a poem in him somewhere all right, 
and he was a splendid creature. But he deceived himself and 
others with his own exuberance. When he declaimed his 
verses, there was no art known to the actor that he did not 
command. His voice was a roar, a whisper, a hiss, a shriek. 
There never had been anything like it, since the rhapsodists 
foamed at the mouth, as they shouted Homer across the 
open sewers in the Athens of Pericles. Lindsay emphasized 
the rhythm till your teeth chattered, or dwelt on a vowel 
long enough to grow a crop on it. He mouthed, he ranted, 
he tore genuine but by no means novel passions to tatters. 
"Legree of the Red River" was I think commonplace 
enough in print, but it was another guess matter when he 
chanted it with noises like the baying of hounds and the 
cracking of bull-whips. And when he launched into his re- 
markable African fantasy, then I personally saw the Congo. 
In spite of descents to absolutely ridiculous depths of bathos, 
I do not remember having been carried to wilder heights by 
any diseur. It would be good if better poets had known so 
instinctively that poetry should be heard as well as seen. I 
don't think he was merely the diseur either. The stately 
Doric verses "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight" to me 
appear to show symptoms of permanence. But the man who 
reads them a century hence will not from them form the 
faintest notion of the wild, inhibited, and untrammeled 
creature out of whose mind and heart they proceeded. 

It was in 1927 that I first encountered that remarkable 
amalgam of non-conformist school-master and Tyrtaeus, Sir 
Henry Newbolt. The young English intellectuals were al- 
ready sneering at his idealized battle-pieces. No doubt there 
is something wrong about sitting in a study and working up 
an emotion about episodes on the Baluchi Frontier. It is the 
thing that's wrong about The Lays of Ancient Rome and 
about Stevenson's famous question "Shall we never draw 

266 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

blood?' ' which last makes a man bow his head for shame. 
But people who take a high line with persons guilty of such 
errors, should remember the remark that most cynicism is 
only sentimentality inside out. And I don't think it is any 
worse to have written "Drake's Drum," which is spirited 
and genuine, than it is to talk with authority about Dante 
when your knowledge is limited to what is contained in one 
essay by T. S. Eliot. Sir Henry's talk was what charmed me 
about him, and a luncheon followed by a heavenly after- 
noon of conversation with him and the equally delightful 
John Bailey at the Athenaeum is one of the things that 
cannot be taken from me. However limited the range of his 
own instrument, he was a lover of the whole art, and as 
cordial to the new as he was reverent before the old. Though 
he were fifty times a school-master, he had not a trace of 
that hateful pedantry which sees in anything novel and full 
of life some threat to established dignity. There is no more 
catholic anthology than his. And he could be cordial to 
T. Sturge Moore, and Flecker, to Edith Sitwell and Eliot. 

Eliot I have only encountered once at a reading he gave 
of his own poetry in Providence. His chased and chiseled 
silver-work fascinates and charms me. And Murder in the 
Cathedral is work of power. At least five of his brief poems 
are enough for any man to have written. To predict is to 
deliver one's-self bound, but I shall have lost a bet if those 
five do not carry him into noble company. But the ideas to 
which he is now delivered, the Weltanschauung to which he 
has slowly drifted, drive me insane. With limitless abilities 
and a tactile sense of the fine line at least the equal of any 
man living, he confines himself within an area of stale in- 
terest. I compare him in fantasy to a great fish, a splendid 
salmon, who has got himself into a rock-pool otherwise in- 
habited by decadent ecclesiastical crabs, parasitic hagfish, 
and literary urchins. A creature of great oceans and made to 
force his way up cataracts in unknown rivers, he describes 

267 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

from time to time an impressive lyric curve about the still 
pool, only to fall back into the stagnancies of Anglo- 
Catholicism, which long since ceased to feel the lunar mo- 
tion of living tides. 

Moreover, I have lost every shred of sympathy I may have 
had for a Lost Generation as it wandered in the Waste Land. 
I belong to that generation myself, and it has only got a 
mild dyspepsia due to habitual overindulgence. I am so sick 
of that self-pity (much like Tennyson's least agreeable mo- 
ments) I could burst with real pessimism. Beyond that the 
land need not be waste and wouldn't be, if it were not for 
idle wringing of irresolute hands. The enemy of God is not 
the imbecile cult of atheism but the feeble cult of preciosity, 
which flourishes best in Chelsea. There never was a time 
when fire and music could not remold a universe no matter 
how shattered. And to behave as if the world had gone to 
hell, when a French scientist can find a prohibited new ele- 
ment in a rock any morning, is what I cannot imagine. In 
fairness I should admit that these fulminations are directed 
rather against the disciples than the master. But I do not 
hold him altogether blameless. And I wish he would do what 
he was created for, which he yet may, instead of lamenting 
among the fallen temples of his spiritual Carthage. Scipio, 
it will be remembered, was partly responsible for the desola- 
tion of the city, whose ruin he regretted. 

If I have reserves about Eliot, I have none about the two 
living gods of my idolatry. They are as different as a Hamp- 
shire glen and a New Hampshire "Notch." They hardly 
belong to the same species. But with characteristic irration- 
ality I think of them together, nor could I get along well, if 
I lacked either. Such brief meetings as I have had with them 
are white stone moments. 

It was about a year after Brooke first spoke to me about 
Walter de la Mare, that the scales fell from my eyes. Brooke 
had been almost violent in his praise of a man whose name 

268 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

I heard for the first time, and with human perverseness I 
had naturally crossed my fingers. I have noticed it again and 
again in myself and others, the tendency to resist the enthu- 
siasm no matter how much you like the enthusiast Also 
there seems to be in my case, and I fancy in others too, a 
sort of lag between the initial contact and the real taste of 
the thing. When I first read "The Listeners" I thought it a 
rather pretty, rather conventional poem with an unusual 
rhythm no more. A year later when I glanced at it again, 
quite by accident, I wondered what could have been the 
matter with me. Every syllable of its dying foils was loaded 
with implications I had not seen or even dreamed. That 
music is as full of sunken cathedrals and gardens under the 
rain as Debussy himself. But it is also as nervously strong, 
for all its romantic airs, as poetry must be. I am awfully glad 
such elf-horns blew in my time, even if it did take me 
twelve stricken months to be roused by them. And to tell 
the man so was much to me, whatever it was to him. England 
shall bide till judgment-tide, so long as the son of Thomas 
the Rhymer knocks at the moonlit door. 

There is something profoundly comic to me in my own 
sight that I sat on a Pulitzer jury which saw a book by 
Robert Frost and found it good. Robert Frost is the tree in 
our wood. He is the crag on our hill. He is there. We need 
not argue, though it appears that it ought to be done. 
Bernard De Voto and I do not dig with the same foot on 
many questions. But when he smote the heathen that had 
undertaken to tell Frost off, a combination of Beaumont and 
Fletcher and the Siamese Twins could not have been more 
of one mind than De Voto and I. Three scorpion sentences 
of De Voto's made every one of those criticasters hunt his 
hole. Their mere existence is pretty good evidence that there 
is no design in nature. No conscious mind would have 
created them intentionally. . 

Frost is not only the best poet in America. He is also the 

269 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

wisest man. This is not an unsupported statement, such as 
comes easily to the lips of admiration. Others, exercised in 
matters unconnected with literature, have made the observa- 
tion. Ample proof could be adduced. I saw the effects, curi- 
ously enough, at a dinner given in Frost's honor by the 
Poetry Society of America. Now that society, like other 
mutual insurance companies, isn't too terribly attractive. It 
is full of envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness, of egotisms 
under imperfect control, of peacock vanities, of factitious 
humilities. To a mob of the disappointed and self-conscious, 
Frost made a speech every word of which was Dichtung and 
Wahrheit. In the pretentious hotel ballroom that fancied it 
was in the manner of Versailles, there was such a silence as 
when an oration is pronounced at the funeral of a hero. All 
faces grew gentler, yet they were intent, too, and transfig- 
ured, as I have seen the faces of commonplace musicians at 
a great recital. Mr. Skylark's countenance had lost its look 
of spiritual esurience. And Miss Nightingale for the moment 
had forgotten both her gift of song and her taste in dress, 
each of which leaves something to be desired. Whatever was 
real in persons, who have, by the conditions of modern life, 
been especially compelled to act artificially, came to the 
surface and most attractively. One saw that they could be 
liked. The spell that Merlin wove was like nothing I had 
ever experienced, except once in Zurich when Jung rose up 
in a chariot of fire beyond the excellence to which he has 
accustomed us. And as if the wisdom were not enough, 
there was something as wild as a brook about the perform- 
ance. It was the first and only time that I have seen three 
hundred people visibly troubled, when they perceived that 
the speaker of the evening was about to make an end. 

I have praised the man. It is unnecessary to praise his 
poetry. I might as well praise Passaconaway and compliment 
Chocorua, ancient and noble hills, which are likely to re- 
main, whatever may be said of them. 

270 



DEFENSE OF POETRY 

I have lived for poetry and I have not been lonely having 
known others who lived on the same terms, some of them 
"no small ones/' as Peroo said when he saw the gods arrive. 
Poetry, which to me is the greatest and most masculine of 
arts, has its ups and downs, its good times and bad. I don't 
think this time is anywhere near as bad as the disappointed 
and unfortunate are apt to make it out in bitter essays in the 
little magazines. After all great poetry has been written in 
the fifty years with which this book deals. "The Testament 
of Beauty" would in itself be enough to set up an era. But 
it wasn't alone. John Davidson, not enough read, was some- 
thing, Francis Thompson still more. In our own country 
there have been noble and distinct voices. 

But I do feel that two mild strictures apply, and, at the 
risk of being called an unredeemable fogy, I am going to 
state them. Certain poets, not always poor ones, seem now 
to prefer to write in an argot that only a clique can under- 
stand, if indeed the clique can understand. This is, to me, 
a sort, of sin against the Holy Ghost. I do not demand that 
all poetry should be as clear as Pope, nor am I wholly an 
advocate of simplicity, Wordsworthian or other. Many 
things, proper material of the poet, are complex and diffi- 
cult. But they are not made less so by the spiritual slang, 
the intellectual anacoluthon, the phony techniques, in 
favor among some talented men. These phenomena may be 
rich and strange, but so far the production of coral from 
those bones has been disappointingly slight in quantity and 
inferior in quality. That men of ability should run a~whor- 
ing after them is evidence of self-mistrust. Byron put It 
savagely over a century ago: 

Good workmen never quarrel with their tools. 

Another notion, loose in these times, depresses me a good 
deal. And I get small comfort from the fact that it is self- 
evidently false, because so many clever people believe it. It 

271 



SEMI-CENTENNIAL 

is openly said by many, and apparently swallowed by more, 
that a man can't be a poet unless he believes in economic 
determinism or whatever. Alexander Blok, the Russian 
"Byron de nos jours/' couldn't manage it and "was so anti- 
social as to kill himself." I understand his poetry continues 
to be read by the recalcitrant, who clearly ought to be 
purged. Of course in Germany a man can't be a poet, if he 
does believe in economic determinism. It all comes to the 
same thing. It would be hard for me to forgive a great poet 
his Fascism. But I don't believe I shall ever be put to the 
test. Such dogmas don't really get hold of the men likely to 
write great poetry. Juvenal survives not because he attacked 
a system which has disappeared, but because he was full of 
poetry that never can, which was wholly independent of his 
hates. Ribera's paintings, if they are to endure, will do so 
because they are art, not because they are propaganda. It is 
diverting to imagine the bewilderment of Karl Marx, whom 
I do myself the honor of admiring, if he could see to what 
use the faithful have put his doctrines. Marx's favorite read- 
ing was Surtees, whose stories of the immortal Jorrocks, he 
could hardly wait for, as they were issued serially week by 
week. Needless to state Surtees was the most crassly bourgeois 
writer of a bourgeois time. What would Marx have said of 
besotted doctrinaires who aim at dethroning Goethe, never 
quite close enough to the party line, yet by some human 
quirk the favorite author of Stalin? That is plenty on what 
is self-evident. I turn to what is less so, though apparent 
enough if you look about you. 

I believe that beyond any peradventure a renaissance is 
gestating in this country. For some years I have read enor- 
mous numbers of books of verse submitted for the Pulitzer 
Prize. I am not much of an advocate of such prizes, but I try 
to follow the Sanskrit adage once quoted to me by Ryder: 
"Whatever foolish thing men think wise, a wise man, know- 
ing it to be foolish, ought to do for the public good/ 1 Be 



DEFENSE OF FOETRY 

that as it may, the books tell one many things quite as im- 
portant as what gets into reports of the Brookings Institute. 
Every caste and class has someone who lifts his voice. And 
what the speakers have to say is a damned sight better than 
the cynical are apt to believe, ever so much better than it 
would have been thirty years ago when I began to write. 
Some of it of course is perfectly awfuL Nothing is much 
more terrible than a mediocre mind which has made the 
mistake of acquiring an afflatus and nothing else. But many 
volumes have some art and no little grace, including the 
sweet grace of modesty. A girl from the Panhandle writes of 
her plains with feeling and without any sentimentality what- 
ever. The young radical speaks up for the exploited, and a 
damn good job too with noble lines. A Bar Harbor matron 
escapes from the complex and ridiculous into the simple and 
tragic. Jeffers' great "Wild Swan' 1 sounds its note as if from 
celestial bronze. And Bent's city is really on fire. One has 
the feeling of something immense and preliminary. A mu- 
sician would already be aware of the direction and necessary 
development of the symphony. I am sure it is coming. We 
shall have our spacious times, the eagles and the trumpets, 
and the multitudes shall not weep. 

What we desired is beginning to be heard. In spite of 
stupidity and pursuing my own false gods, I have been on 
the trail of it thirty years. I believe, though I cannot say I 
have touched the wounds with my fingers. In the event that 
a humanly great thought should burn across my brain and 
incarnate itself in inevitable and indestructible words that 
came home to men's businesses and bosoms, I should be 
happy indeed, but only happier in degree than I have been, 
and still am, to be a part, no doubt inconspicuous, in a 
great effort to get people to seek true and essential pleasure, 
I may never think that thought or discover those words. 
But if you have had a better time than I have had trying, 
you've had a damned good one. 



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